I love my dog for lots of reasons - not just because she's cute and has a fun personality, but also because of (some of) the effects on my life. I'm thinking mostly about the need to walk her.
Of course walking a dog is good exercise and there are proven health benefits of breathing fresh air. However, whilst these facts give me a gentle background feeling of smug satisfaction, they're not the things I'm referring to.
I specifically enjoy the connections made when walking with my dog. I'm much more connected to the area in which I live because of walking - I've found some lovely walks, one which takes me to a local pub which does excellent Sunday lunches, and which is only a 35 minute walk away through beautiful countryside with hardly a road in sight most of the way. In contrast it takes 15 minutes to drive there and parking isn't particularly convenient. My hubby and I took a friend there recently - the three of us walked there with our dogs, had a couple of drinks, watched some tennis on the TV (part of the ludicrous game at Wimbledon which went on forever and nearly finished off both the players), after which we ambled back for supper (then we carried on watching tennis!) - What a great way to spend an afternoon.
I've also now met all of our neighbours after 1 year with a dog, having not known many of them after living here for the previous 5 years. Furthermore I'm now on nodding terms with several people in the village, which makes the place more real in my mind - it's not merely a collection of houses, but a place where real people live . It's more of a home.
I find it fascinating that, while I don't know their names, I do know the names of their dogs, and, in some cases, where they live. The upshot is that I think of the people as e.g. Oscar's dad or Pandora's mum & dad, and one house is Oscar's house and another is Ruth's house.
I'm also more connected to the day to day weather - there are no longer times when I don't go outside (except to get in my car) for days at a time, and I'm, therefore, more connected to the changing seasons - the wild flowers that start appearing in spring, the butterflies of summer, the fruit picking frenzy of early autumn and the fine, crisp (or soggy, wet) winter mornings.
So my little Poppy has enhanced my life beyond the mere fact of being an additional family member - she's caused me to be fitter, happier and more connected to the world and my place in it. That's quite a lot for one small bundle of energetic trouble.