by Cassidy Gillard
Many people believe that dogs are a person’s best friend, and at the ranch this theory is strongly supported. Having a bunch of dogs running around playing, snuggling up to kids when they don’t feel well, and showing off their silly personalities is a luxury we feel very lucky to have. Our dogs are able to offer comfort to kids who may be struggling to have successful interactions with other kids, and excitement to kids who don’t get to spend a lot of time around dogs.
Our dogs have a certain level of attachment to the people who are around them consistently, however the companionship that dogs offer in general is beautiful, and I love watching the bonds that people form with the dogs throughout the summer.
First of all, every dog has their own unique personality. There is something about each of them that is different from the rest, and each person forms a different connection with each dog. Some of them like to be snuggled and pet, and some of them like their space and require a certain level of gentleness before they are able to connect with a person. Some of them sneak around trying to find little snacks, and some of them lie peacefully by the door watching their favorite person, making sure they don’t get left behind when their human leaves the room. Some of them will lie with you on the floor and allow you to get a little dose of oxytocin while you tell them about your day. Which brings another important point.
Oxytocin is a hormone that is released when you get a hug, or have someone rub your back, or lay with someone. Oxytocin is also released when you get a cuddle from a dog. You can lay with a dog and actually have chemicals release that will make you feel better. So it’s not just about relaxing or petting a nice soft pup, there’s an actual feel-good effect. You can get this from human contact as well, but sometimes, especially at camp when kids or staff members may be feeling sad to be away from home, it’s hard to open up to unfamiliar people. Having a companion who expects nothing other than some snuggles is a really comforting, empowering feeling, and often a few moments petting a dog can turn a mood around.
Lastly, there is a certain level of comedy that comes with being around dogs. Oftentimes their quirky personalities bring laughter to a group of people, and the bond that forms by laughing with the people around you is irreplaceable. One of our dogs has some chronic tummy troubles, and though the smells that come from her can instantly clear a room, the laughter that erupts is healing. Sometimes the dogs try to steal snacks, and watching someone chase after a dog with a bag full of cookies brings people together like nothing else. When someone is trying to fill up the water troughs for the horses, and the dogs hop right in and start swimming around to cool off without a care in the world, it is a great reminder to be spontaneous and carefree.
Though there are times when living at the ranch is tough for dogs, like during a wedding when they have to stay away from all of the friendly people that they would love to play with, and when they go to town and don’t know what a leash is, the camp dogs have the best life in the world. They have endless space to run and play, they have tons of people around to snuggle with them and play with them and love them. They have thousands of opportunities every day to make people smile and give that relief that only a dog can give, and they get to lay around by the fire all winter and rest up for the most fun summer a dog could ever imagine.