They say that dogs are “counselors with fur.” There’s a reason we’ve always called canine’s “man’s best friend.” In times of conflict, they can be of great comfort.
We see it all the time with therapy dogs, who often visit disaster victims, sick children in hospitals and seniors in nursing homes. But the human-canine bond dates back thousands of years.
Descendants of wolves, dogs have been attracted to humans since we started living in settlements – a great source of food scraps.
While we know that our dogs bring us joy, there’s now science to back up that feeling. The simple act of petting a dog can reduce stress, lower blood pressure and help regulate breathing. Research has also found that the simple act of petting a dog releases oxytocin, the hormone associated with affection and bonding in humans and dogs.
There’s also anecdotal evidence that our canine companions can demonstrate empathy. In one study, volunteers were asked to pretend to cry or to hum. Virtually all of the dogs came over to lick or nuzzle the volunteers who pretended to cry, regardless of whether that person was the owner or a stranger.
The bond between man and his dog is undoubtedly strong. Even in Gaza, a culture of dog-owning has grown despite it being against cultural norms. Dog walking was banned on the Gaza strip last year, but that hasn’t stopped people from keeping their canine companions indoors.
For Israelis who struggle with depression, anxiety, the stress of everyday life or the grief of losing a loved one, a dog can be of great comfort. And it’s easier than ever to find a dog thanks to pet websites dedicated to adoption. There are more than 30,000 stray dogs in Israel, all of which could use a loving home.
The only problem? It’s expensive to own a dog here. Raising a small dog will cost you about 2,300 shekels a year for immunization, licenses, flea and tick preventatives and food. A large dog costs about 4,700 shekels per year to raise.
There are so many benefits to having a canine companion, but the high care costs are proving to be a barrier for some Israelis.
There are about 380,000 dog owners in Israel, and the average household spends about 280 shekels a month on their canine companions.
Still, many are willing to take on these costs to experience the joy of owning a dog – and the comfort they provide in hard times. In Tel Aviv, 30,000 of the 413,000 residents own a dog. The city hosted its first official dog festival in 2016. Today, dogs are allowed in most cafes and stores.
In total, Tel Aviv is home to four dog beaches and 70 dog parks. Dogs are still allowed in regular parks. Businesses leave bowls outside for canines walking down the street. Hotels are pet-friendly.
Israelis are no strangers to dogs, but they’re becoming increasingly common in urban areas. For many, having a dog makes it easier to cope with the stress of living in the city.