By Gino Blefari:
This week my travels find me starting off en route to Minnesota for the in-person HomeServices of America CEO/Leadership meeting taking place at the Westin Edina Galleria. From there, I flew home, participated in meetings and sat down to write this post to you … without my beloved Kona by my side.
Kona passed away in my arms earlier this week and as a dedication to a dog that was so much more than a pet, I am writing this week’s Thoughts on Leadership for her. To me, dogs are the greatest pals we can ask for. One of the greatest feelings in the world was coming home from a trip, pulling up to the front door in my Uber and seeing my dog, Kona, through the window, wagging her tail like crazy as I walked up to the house and stepped inside.Read more: Thoughts on Leadership: Lessons from Kona
It makes you feel so good, so loved by this animal in front of you that your heart can practically burst from the joy of it all. It’s just what dogs do.
The American Kennel Club outlines several science-based benefits of dogs:
- Dogs reduce feelings of loneliness.
- Research shows the bond between humans and dogs reduces stress and lowers blood pressure.
- 10 minutes of petting your dog can reduce cortisol, a major stress hormone.
- Dogs help us psychologically cope with crises – PTSD in military veterans has been shown to improve when they get a service dog.
- Dogs encourage us to move – dog owners are 4x more likely to meet daily physical guidelines than non-dog owners.
- Dogs can improve your photography skills – in a study by Rover, 65% of dog owners said they took more photos of their dog than their significant other!
- Dogs help us connect – an estimated 40% of dog owners report having an easier time making friends when out with their dog.
- Dogs make us happier – staring into your dog’s eyes raises your level of oxytocin, the “love hormone.”
And I truly loved my Kona. When I was at Intero she came to work with me every single day; she never missed a day. We’d go to Starbucks together; she’d sit under my desk during meetings when I was working from home. She was just there, a constant, loyal source of unconditional companionship and support.
So, what’s the message? I believe we are connected to our dogs in ways perhaps even science has yet to understand. About a month ago, when Kona started really deteriorating, I was feeling dizzy and off, something just wasn’t right. Of course it wasn’t. Kona was part of me and if she was feeling sick, I was too. When I left for Hawaii, a sense of foreboding followed, like stepping on that plane I knew that this was the beginning of the end.
I moved my return flight up – Kona was in bad condition – and she waited for me to get home, just like she always did on every trip I took before. That sweet, adorable pal of mine – a mainstay at Intero, a regular at Starbucks, a curled-up sleeper beneath my desk – waited until I got home to say her final goodbye. And when I did say goodbye to my sweet Kona, I wasn’t just saying goodbye to my dog, I was saying goodbye to my best friend.
P.S. This story has a silver – or golden – lining. I called the place where I originally got Kona to let them know how great of a dog she was and offhandedly during our conversation happened to ask, “Do you by any chance have an F1 Half-Golden, Half-Miniature Poodle puppy?” And the breeder pauses then says, “You know, as a matter of fact we have a whole litter of puppies right now!” And because I knew somehow this news was Kona smiling down on me from the great dog park in the sky, I said, “Can you just check if they might be related to Kona?” And guess what? The breeder replied: “They are. The parents of Kona were Toby and Goldy and the father of the litter is Cody, the grandson of Toby.” Right then and there I decided I’m going to get one of the girl puppies … and I was thinking of naming her Kona. What do you think I should name her?