Alberta Lawyers' Assistance Society

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Dog Day of Summer

Today, August 26th, is International Dog Day. Not the dog days of summer, but the actual Dog Day!
In honour of this auspicious event, Assist is sharing photos of some of our favourite dogs, both the Assist home office assistants and the Shadow Executive Committee.
There is a theory in psychology that we need to outweigh negative emotions with positive emotions by a ratio of three to one. The mathematical relationship is difficult to quantify and is somewhat disputed so suffice it to say that we all need more positive feelings than negative ones.
But how do we go about catching these positive emotions when our work lives are filled with negativity, frustration, competitive people, and an adversarial legal system?
Researchers and clinicians will cite three sources:

  • Expressing gratitude
  • Giving to others
  • Spending time with people you like or on activities you enjoy.

 But I have a fourth one: get a pet.
No matter how hard a day I have, when I walk in the door at home, Tessa comes running and wags her tail. If I go out into my garage to get something, she comes running and wags her tail—any departure and return causes joy for her, and then for me. And she watches me, trying to anticipate what I am going to do so she can run on ahead of me (I may be a creature of habit!)
Every evening, I give her one Denta Stix. This is one of her sources of true joy and it makes me smile. I break it into two halves for double the pleasure. She doesn’t ever eat it right away. She picks it up and jumps up on the ottoman with it in her mouth. She then reverentially places it on the fabric surface and begins to dance in front of it. She does downward facing dog and wags her entire backside. Then she rolls over onto her back and kicks all of her legs in the air, wiggling her entire backside.
This can go on for anywhere from 15 seconds to fifteen minutes (the longest documented dental stick dance.) And sometimes she decides that she has to “bury” it somewhere in the house, which means trying to stash it in the gap between the sofa cushions and the sofa or under a blanket or dog bed.  
When she has everything just the way she wants it (having rescued it if she buried it), she chews it up and then asks for the second one because we all know that dogs can count the number of treats they are entitled to. The second one is eaten without ceremony, and then she curls up and naps.
I had thought I was a cat person before Tessa arrived. Tessa’s predecessor was Chase, a wonderful rescue kitten who got his name from the fact that he chased everything. He knew the power of eye contact—he would appear at my front window doing the silent meow, and as soon as our eyes connected, he would run to the front door to be let in. He could open doors with lever handles, and he loved drinking water as it came out of a faucet, trying to figure out how to chew on the faucet handles to make it happen. We miss him incredibly, but his paw prints are on our hearts.
We had Chase and Tessa together for eight years, and Chase eventually accepted the little interloper who followed him to the litter box and barked while he did his business. A little girl walking past my house when I was on my front porch with both pets and asked me (to her mother’s embarrassment) why I had both a cat and a dog and I said that sometimes I wondered that, too. But the reason we had both was that Chase was diagnosed with diabetes when he was eight and my kids were devastated. He hated other cats, so I decided to get a small female dog who wouldn’t bother him as much (hah—what did I know?) to ease the transition since his lifespan would be impaired. He cooperated fully with his insulin shots twice a day and I know that on some level, he knew I was helping him.
Pets are a commitment, and they make you want to stay home, but, to me, there are worth every precious second—both cats and dogs.
My four-footed family has grown this year with my sister’s adoption of Whisper, a beautiful dog who had been part of a dog hoarding situation, and Miku, my first grand-dog, a Shiba Inu who is more like a cat!
But today is Dog Day.
Have you ever wondered where the expression the “dog days of summer” came from? According to National Geographic, it comes from the placement of Sirius, the dog star, rising on the horizon around the end of July, coinciding with hot weather.
The official Dog Day now comes at the end of calendar summer, a season of transition, even though meteorological summer lasts until September 21st. Kids will be retuning to school, and this impacts parents and non-parents alike. We think about what we did during the summer, and we plan our fall.
Sometimes seasonal change causes trepidation. To the extent that work expectation and projects eased off a bit over the summer, they are coming back full force. We often worry about how we are going to get everything done. But all we can do is take our lives one day at a time, as our friends in the 12-step community wisely know.
Let’s hope that we have a beautiful fall and that we ease into the new routine smoothly. But if you need some positive emotions in your life to outweigh some negatives, here are four suggestions:

  1. Express gratitude. I am grateful for Tessa, and for Chase, Cleo, Sherlock, and their predecessors.
  2. Altruism generates positivity. What can you do today to give to someone in need or to make a difference in someone’s life? Canada Helps, the platform Assist uses for online donations, is observing Dog Day today as well, with many animal charities that you can support: But there are local Alberta rescue and shelter charities across the province that you can find with a quick google search as well.
  3. Positive people and activities: Plan to get together with friends, including the four-footed ones if you have some in your midst. I love walking with my dog and meeting other dog people. When you walk by yourself, you rarely have conversations with strangers, but it is different when you walk with a dog—everyone stops to chat!
  4. If you don’t have access to a four-footed friend, enjoy our collage of family photos of Assist’s Executive Committee and staff,  but dropping by a dog park is a great way to find four-footed friends!)

Happy Dog Day and enjoy the rest of the summer.