Last year, I became the proud owner of a new working cocker Spaniel puppy called Samson. Between myself, my wife and two young daughters, we had been considering our new arrival for some time and doing plenty of research into the right breed for us.
We live in quiet rural England and, armed with lots of books and advice from my veterinary colleagues, I set off into the world to socialise him in as many strange and interesting places as possible.
I was quickly struck by how many people were drawn to come and talk to him and to me. Complete strangers in the middle of major cities, who’d normally pass by on the street without even nodding, were keen to greet us and share stories of their own pets and companions.
This trend continued as he grew up and we walked him locally. We met neighbours young and old that we had never met before, learning about their life stories, their passions, and above all sharing a mutual love for our dogs.
We also talked more as a family as we went out on walks together, freeing ourselves from the dreaded screens! Talking to other dog owners, it seems that lots of them have seen an uplift in their physical activity since they’ve had their pets.
These experiences with Samson have made me wonder whether – as our society becomes more individualistic, with an ageing population and more single person households – dogs could have a critical role to play as both loving companions and social catalysts.