Of Puppy Hugs and Puppy Love

I am currently dog-less, as we have managed, over the years, to acquire a number of feline family members.  I did have a dog, until about 1995.  He was a Doberman/border-collie mix, weighed about 80 pounds, and seriously thought he was a lap dog.  I would be sitting in the recliner reading or watching television, and he would come bounding into the room and take a flying leap into my lap.  Luckily no ribs were ever broken, though the recliner soon bit the dust.  Gomer was smarter than me.  I worked long hours at the time, came home and went for a 2-3 mile run, then fixed myself a sandwich to eat.  Just as I would sit down to eat, Gomer would run to the front door and start frantically barking.  Then, when I got up and went to the front door to see who might be there, he would run back into the kitchen and snatch my sandwich, eating it in one loud gulp.  You might think I caught on to this after a time or two, but sadly, no.  I fell for it time and again.  Gomer loved chasing squirrels, but even more he loved hugs.  Hugs were his favourite thing in the whole world, and he would let you hug him just as long as you wanted, then whine for more.  So imagine my surprise yesterday when I came across the following article in the New York Times:

“The next time you want to hug a dog, consider this: You could be making the pooch miserable, an expert says.”

To the average dog lover, the animals’ floppy ears and pudgy paws are simply cute. But there is actual science behind their design: They are cursorial animals, which means that they have adapted to run as their first line of defense, said Stanley Coren, a psychology professor emeritus at the University of British Columbia and a dog-training expert.

So when a human, however well-meaning or needy, moves in for a full-body embrace, it immobilizes the dog and increases the animal’s stress level, he wrote in a Psychology Today blog post this month.

Dr. Coren’s recommendation? “Save your hugs for your two-footed family members and lovers. It is clearly better from the dog’s point of view if you express your fondness for your pet with a pat, a kind word and maybe a treat.”

Dogs, like humans, each have different temperaments and personalities, but to say that a dog is miserable when being hugged?  No, I simply do not buy it.  Even a couple of our cats, particularly the older ones, love hugs.  So, I did a bit of research and found that I am not alone in my assessment. This article was in the Boston Globe:

“When I’m sad, I hug my dog. A big, fat, full-armed hug around his furry chest, punctuated by big fat kisses on his awfully sweet, awfully long, awfully blond snout.

And when I’m happy, I hug my dog, too, maybe even more tightly. Dog hugs are the very finest, sunniest thing in the known world, next to puppy breath and puppy kisses, of course.

So thanks for nothing, Psychology Today, with all of your damn digging and analysis.

The magazine posted a piece earlier this month on how “hugging your dog raises its stress and anxiety levels,” written by Stanley Coren, psychology professor, author of many dog books, and an expert in the fine art of killing joy.

Most dog-hug addicts believe what novelist Ann Hood once said, that “there is more power in a good strong hug than in a thousand meaningful words.” It’s how we’ve been communicating love directly to our beloved animals, who don’t use words. When I think about having made so many dogs miserable over the years, I feel like an insensitive human, an entrapper, a needy, callous soul getting what he needs at the expense of another.


Thankfully, we huggers got a reprieve of sorts on Wednesday, when Psychology Today posted a response by animal behavior author Marc Bekoff, who cofounded Ethologists for the Ethical Treatment of Animals with Jane Goodall.

Bekoff essentially says that hugging a dog can be just fine, assuming you understand the dog and his or her tells. “Pay close attention to what you know about the individual dog and what she or he is telling you,” he writes. “And, if you’re unsure, don’t hug the dog! Better safe than sorry. Just like people, some dogs love it, some sort of like it, and some may not like the close contact at all.”

So the data may say “Don’t hug the dog.” But my dog — and my heart — say, “Hug, baby, hug.”

So the bottom line is, if you want to hug your dog (or cat) and if he/she seems to like it, hug away!

starbucks-iced-coffee1And now for your daily dose of head-shaking … A woman, one Stacy Pincus from Illinois, is suing Starbucks for $5 million.  Yes, that is $5,000,000!  Because … no, they did not get the coffee too hot, causing her to burn her arrogant little tongue.  They put too much ice in her chilled beverage!  The charges against the coffee company are “fraud, negligent misrepresentation and unjust enrichment.”  What the Sam heck is ‘unjust enrichment’?  $5 million dollars for too much bloomin’ ice??? She says that they put a half cup of ice, leaving less room for the coffee.  Okay, but since the coffee is hot when it’s poured in, then it melts a substantial portion of the ice, and if they put less ice, she would be suing that the drink was not cold enough!  She says she is representing everyone who has purchased a cold drink from Starbucks in the last ten years.  Hmmmmm …. but she does not say she plans to share that $5 million with all those people.  Some people cannot be pleased, no matter what, and she is obviously one of those people.  I truly hope the judge throws this case out the door and fines Ms. Pincus for filing a frivolous lawsuit.  Unjust enrichment …

And last, but not least, the headline read:

This Orphaned Puppy Fits Purrfectly Into His Feline Foster Family

dog with kittens.gif“When Bobby, a Chihuahua puppy, was 5 days old, his mom was hit by a car and killed. But thanks to a feline foster mom — a cat named Gwen — Bobby, is now is totally thriving as part of a litter of kittens.

According to MHS, it is crucial for a pup Bobby’s age to have mother’s milk in order to grow healthy and strong. Unfortunately there were no lactating dogs at Bobby’s shelter, but thanks to the creativity of someone at one of MHS’ transfer partners, Bobby was paired with Gwen who, along with her litter of kittens, welcomed the puppy into her family with open paws:

“It’s a misconception that cats and dogs can’t get along, and as we see at the Michigan Humane Society, they can often become loving family members,” Ryan McTigue, a spokesperson for MHS told Detroit Free Press. “Mother cat Gwen’s acceptance of Bobby as an addition to her litter of kittens is a wonderful example of that!”

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