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Column: A contemporary cure for loneliness

An opinion piece on the dog-human relationship in 21st century.
Technology nowadays connects us more than ever, but paradoxically, many of us feel more isolated than previous generations, and dogs fill that void.

My last month and a half was flooded with uncalled for, unconditional love and happiness.

No, I didn't fall in love. Nor did I have a child. Nor did I have any other major life-changing experience, except for becoming a caregiver for a cute young pug.

Even though I've been a dog owner all my life and have had two serious full-time companions making my days more exciting for many years, this little four-pawed, shading, stinky, snoring and snorty ball of joy brought something very different into my routine.

Not only is Frank (a very serious name for a very funny creature) indeed a social dog, who wants to interact with people every minute of every hour, but he is also a small dog, which I've never really owned before. It's a dog that has a hard time staying on his own and even sleeping apart from people, but he is also a dog that naturally senses anxiety and stress and bumps up his therapeutic abilities to ensure I forget all worries.

Through the ages, people have claimed dogs as one of their closest, and best, companions. Yet, when I found myself in the office with little Frank sitting on my lap last week, I realized that we now put a different meaning into that claim.

Not that it was the first time I caught myself thinking about the role dogs play in many people's lives nowadays, but this new experience definitely made me re-evaluate this relationship from the inside.

The trend for developing deeper and closer relationships with dogs becomes more and more widespread as we progress. Dogs end up everywhere with us. We spend more and more money on them, and quite a few times, I've heard that people prefer dogs over humans. But have you ever stopped to wonder why this phenomenon has become so prevalent in the 21st century?

Let's rewind a bit. Picture this: a time when dogs were mainly habituating in backyards or the confines of the home. Sure, even some 50 years ago, most of them were beloved companions, but their world was limited to the familiar sights and smells of their own territory. Fast forward to today, and you'll find dogs accompanying their humans on all sorts of adventures – from cross-country road trips to exotic vacations abroad.

I think my outsider's eye-opening moment happened when we were down south this winter, and I witnessed hundreds of tourists walking their dogs on Mexican beaches. Not one or even 10 families, but dozens of people brought their best friends south with them. That was something odd and new to see for me there, but at the same time, if we look around furry friends hang out in every other vehicle in Estevan as well.

We've always loved and needed our dogs, but not to today's level.

So, what changed? How did our canine companions go from backyard buddies to travel partners? Part of the change lies in the evolution of our relationship with them, as well as our own evolution. Probably the most dominant contributing factor is the ever-growing sense of loneliness that is spread through modern society.

Technology nowadays connects us more than ever, but paradoxically, many of us feel more isolated than previous generations. We're constantly bombarded with notifications and information of all sorts, yet genuine human connection often feels unreachable. Too often there is no time for good old face-to-face visits. And why, if you can Facetime?

But dogs, they are different. They have this natural ability to bridge that gap, offering companionship, loyalty and unconditional love in a way that few humans can match.

Think about it. When you come home after a long day at work, who's there to greet you with endless enthusiasm, tail wagging and everything else, as if it hasn't seen you in years? Your dog. When you're feeling down and out, who's there to cuddle up beside you, offering silent relief? Your dog. It's no wonder we've become so attached to them – they fill a void in our lives that we often don't even realize is there.

So why do we feel the need to take them everywhere we go? It's simple. Our dogs are more than just pets now; they're family. Dog moms and dads are not a figure of speech or a joke anymore. Our connection to our fluff balls is stronger than it's ever been. And just like we wouldn't dream of leaving a family member behind, we can't bear the thought of parting ways with our furry companions, even for a short time.

In a world where loneliness lurks around every corner, our dogs remind us that we're never truly alone as long as we have each other.

It's not just about the destination – it's about the journey, and who we choose to share it with. And for a lot of us now, that journey wouldn't be complete without our faithful canine companions by our side.