Adopting a dog improved the life of this Times journalist

Jenni Russell is a journalist at The Times newspaper and a broadcaster. She quite often writes a opinion article and today she writing about how the adoption of a puppy changed her life.

Jenni Russell

The interesting aspect of her story, which is incredibly effusive about the benefits of living with a dog, is that she was not a dog person for most of her life until she adopted a puppy. She was anti-dog because she saw them as messy and annoying.

In her article she describes dogs as “intrusive” and “prone to interrupting conversations and fouling pavements”. For her, dogs were only any good if they were working animals herding sheep or guarding their owner.

This dislike of dogs she suggests started when she was much younger, in her 20s, living in Swaziland when she was attacked by a group of Rhodesian ridgebacks. They could have killed her but she was saved by the gardener.

The moment when things changed for her was when her mother’s friend gave her mother a puppy. She writes that, “In an instant my mother had a structure and a purpose to fill the void [she had just lost her husband]. Within months she and Jaeger had an easy companionship, whether they were walking on hillsides, swimming in a dam, rapturously reuniting after an hour apart or sharing buttered toast at breakfast.”

She was enamoured at seeing her mother’s life becoming more purposeful and more joyous. And so, like many others, 12 months into the Covid-19 pandemic she decided to cautiously adopt a dog.

It didn’t start that well and she probably questioned what she had done. She adopted a small golden cavapoo.

She felt that they were incompatible for a while because her puppy wanted to play and be rumbustious while she wanted to lie on the sofa and read a book.

But little by little, three years on, she’s become a committed dog person “and it’s quite a different place, both publicly and privately”.

She says that she can meet people anywhere at almost any time doing anything and she can enter into a rapport with another person thanks to the presence of her dog. Dogs are great for meeting people and when a person meets you and your dog it puts a smile on their faces.

Jenni Russell said that she has a wonderful relationship with her dog; one of great mutual admiration and respect. She says that “A fiftysomething woman [she is referring to herself] is shocked that she loves her dog more than any friend”. She says a human friend can be 50-50 annoying and appealing whereas a dog companion is “99% marvellous”.

Jenni Russell used to be a lifetime traveller but she now prefers brief trips because she wants to be with her dog and doesn’t want to leave him. Comment: companion animals anchor you to your home when you are in a close relationship.

She adds that “People find dogs’ demands paradoxically liberating. A buttoned-up man has to tussle, roll and run with his, playing as he hasn’t done for decades. A driven young woman is revelling in enforced patience as a puppy sleeps on her lap or snuffles slowly on his walk.”

That I can agree with. Companion animals, both dogs and cats, can stop you getting into a rut and ruts can be quite damaging. Pets make you stop. If you rush around too much you’ve got to stop if your cat or dog plops down on your lap. They break up your lifestyle for the better. There are demands and there are responsibilities.

And their lifespan is much shorter than ours so there will be a time when you have to bear the pain of losing them but overall they are beneficial to the health of people. That’s a known fact.

Picture: By Deccadidthis – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Speciesism - 'them and us' | Cruelty - always shameful
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