Dog with heart sunglasses
Roughly 80 million Americans are dog owners, and 44% of our country’s households have a canine friend or two, or four. In other parts of the world, they are equally popular. Consider France, where dogs are routinely invited into restaurants and given a seat at the table. No, there is no denying that we humans are in love with our dogs. And who could blame us? What is sweeter, more irresistible, than a velvety muzzle, adoring eyes, and a soft chin on our knee?

A few years back, a movie called “Must Love Dogs,” starring John Cusack and Diane Lane, showcased the very real requirement among many people that our potential mates possess a level of dog devotion equal to our own. Some have even been known to break up with a significant other over such imbalance of canine adoration.

History tells us that humans began domesticating dogs somewhere between 30,000 and 13,000 years ago, when wolves worked up the courage to draw near to people’s food (okay, so the early connections were practical). Ancient Egyptians buried their household pets in blinged-out, elaborate tombs, and millennia ago, people discovered the comfort of a dog’s warm coat on a frigid night.

Medical studies have shown that regular contact with dogs lowers blood pressure and cholesterol, decreasing the risk of heart attack and stroke, and conditions such as anxiety, depression, PTSD and other maladies are significantly improved by the presence of dogs. That goes a long way to explain why therapy dogs began trotting into hospitals, schools, rehab centers, and other settings in the mid-20th century. The practice is so common now, it’s almost strange not to see a dog in a place where people could use a friendly (albeit sloppy) hello. Monarch Landing’s own therapy dog Journey, is a testament to the positive impact of dogs.

According to a recent study published in Science AAAS, the ties between man and dog are hormonal, literally raising oxytocin (a “feel good” chemical released when people snuggle together or bond socially) by well over 100 percent in both humans and canines when we gaze into each other’s eyes. Apparently, it’s mutual love, one that scientists liken to the relationship between a parent and child.

But enough about history, medicine and science. Let’s get to the brass-tacks dog stories that make us laugh, cry, or both. After all, the most viral videos, by far, feature cats and dogs. Given the online political vitriol of today, such material is a welcome relief over which no one can argue.

Dogs rescuing humans from a dire situation or reuniting with owners who’ve been away on military duty almost guarantee a lump in the throat or tear to the eye. Dogs romping with children and other dogs, cats, or even ducks, deer and elephants, elicit a giggle from the most stoic observer. (They may also make us wonder why humans we can’t get along better with those different from ourselves.)

One recent video features a dog in a car impatiently pouncing on the horn in an attempt to get his owners out of a sandwich shop. Another hilarious favorite from a few years back features a “conversation” between a man and his dog, in which the man tells his dog he gave some coveted food to the cat. The dog’s reactions are priceless.

The importance of man’s best friend is not lost on the people of Monarch Landing, where dogs are not only allowed, but are in fact welcomed and embraced, and bring joy to all.