In the modern era, it's evident that many of us are experiencing increasing levels of isolation and loneliness. Technological advancements, while facilitating communication, have paradoxically also contributed to a profound sense of disconnection. We find ourselves spending more time interacting with screens than with each other, creating a sense of social isolation.

This reality has been exacerbated by the Covid pandemic, which necessitated physical distancing and remote work, further limiting our opportunities for in-person interactions. Covid had the effect of moving us further and faster in the direction that many of us were already heading. Although Covid restrictions have lifted, we haven't returned to where we were before.

People are not getting together in groups or spending time with friends as much as they have in times past. With the widespread adoption of remote work, individuals are spending more time isolated in their own homes, detached from the social connections that were once an integral part of our daily lives. Even in public spaces, many are scrolling through their Instagram feeds, and are less likely to engage in meaningful interactions with the people around them. This excessive reliance on technology and the growing prevalence of virtual interactions have led to a sense of disconnection and isolation. 


In a recent essay, United States Surgeon General Vivek Murthy shed light on the profound impact of loneliness on our overall well-being. Drawing a startling comparison, he stated that loneliness can be as harmful to our health as smoking fifteen cigarettes a day. The detrimental effects of loneliness extend beyond mere emotional distress, as it has been linked to an increased risk of anxiety, depression, addiction, suicide, heart disease, stroke, and early death.

Recognizing the significance of these findings, Dr. Murthy emphasized the critical role that connections with friends and family play in combating loneliness and promoting our health and well-being. By fostering and nurturing meaningful relationships, we can proactively address this pervasive issue and prioritize our social connections for a healthier, happier life.

Digital candy, in the form of our devices, social media, and other online content, has become the junk food on which many of us subsist. Rather than deriving nourishment from genuine face-to-face connections with other human beings, we find ourselves relying on these addictive digital distractions.

The disconnect that we are witnessing is also a reflection of our individual and collective emotional wounding. The anger, hurt, sadness, fear, and other unprocessed emotions that reside within our bodies erect barriers to intimacy. These barriers diminish our capacity to both give and receive love, and they impede our ability to sustain any meaningful form of engagement.

Unlike human relationships, our animal companions don't evaluate or judge us based on our flaws or peculiarities. They don't weird out or ghost us; instead, they are consistent and reliable. They are our loyal and affectionate companions who love us unconditionally.

For many of us, the emotional bonds that we share with our dogs, cats, and other animal friends are the strongest. They are there for us emotionally, providing a level of support and love greater than we receive from anywhere else. In their presence, we find solace and healing. Our animal companions care deeply about us and possess an extraordinary ability to sense when we're distressed or in need of comfort.

Our animal friends are there for us even when no one else is. They sense when we're in the midst of a financial crisis, breakup, or grieving the death of a loved one. They provide us with valuable support and help us to get through the difficult times.

Touch starved

As young children, we were held by our parents, experiencing the warmth and comfort of physical touch. As we grew older, physical contact played a significant role in our lives through play and exploration. However, as we transitioned into adulthood, we often found ourselves becoming more physically distant from one another.

We experience sexual intimacy at when we're passionately in love with a romantic partner. Sexual intimacy often drops off as the passion fades, as we age and as our health declines.

The emotional barriers resulting from hurt, anger, fear, and other emotions, as well as the traumas that reside within us, create obstacles to intimacy that diminish our capacity to both give and receive love. These deep emotional wounds also erect barriers to physical touch. As a result, many of us experience a profound lack of touch, leaving us touch starved.

My dog Murphy, a Schnauzer, was an exceptionally handsome boy. He had a very gregarious personality, and we shared an incredibly close emotional bond. Murphy passed away just short of what would have been his fourteenth birthday, just over four years prior to this writing. His loss was especially devastating to me, affecting me deeply. In many ways, it felt like losing both my best friend and a child.

Murphy was there for me during some incredibly difficult times. I typically sleep on my left side, and it was a common for Murphy to sleep on his right side with his back next to mine. His presence during the nights was incredibly comforting.

Mahi, also a schnauzer, came into my life in October 2021. She's incredibly affectionate. The moment I lay down for a nap and she jumps into bed and cuddles up next to me. She often lays at my feet as I'm working on my computer. In many instances, she's using my foot as her pillow.

I often hold Mahi in my lap while I'm working away on my computer. This allows us to spend more time together, and I don't feel like I am neglecting her. She also sits in my lap as I'm doing meditation practice.

The physical contact and affection from our animal friends help us heal by fulfilling some of our most basic emotional and physical needs. Their presence fills the empty void while comforting the lonely parts of ourselves. Engaging with them and being in close proximity has a calming effect that alleviates stress, anxiety, and sadness. Our interactions also trigger the release of oxytocin, a hormone – neurotransmitter that enables us to experience an overall sense of well-being.

Becoming more present in the moment

Most of us are not fully present in the moment. Instead, we find ourselves living through the screens of our devices, consumed by regrets about the past and anxieties about the future.

Animals serve as remarkable examples of what it means to be fully embodied. They exhibit an extraordinary ability to be present in the moment. Simply being in their presence can have a profound impact on us, helping us become more grounded and attuned to the present moment.

A great way to meet people

Feeling lonely?

Walking our dogs often becomes a social experience. Along the way, we encounter fellow dog owners and engage in friendly conversations. Dogs have an amazing ability to spark connections between people, acting as social facilitators. These encounters can lead to new friendships, shared experiences, and a sense of belonging within our communities.

Play time

Many of us have become way too serious. We're stressed out, our bodies are holding onto enormous amounts of tension and we’re living from one day to the next in survival mode. What makes it even worse is that we no longer play.

Our animal friends help us to become more physically engaged when they entice us to play with them. Murphy loved to have me chase him around the house. Mahi also loves being chased and to play tug of war. Whenever I visit the homes of the people I work with, I often play with their dogs and cats.

Getting out of the house

Many of us find ourselves increasingly isolated and sedentary, spending way too much time indoors and absorbed in the digital world. Our dogs are wonderful motivators and companions, encouraging us to get outside and engage in physical activity. We think we're doing it for them, but it also has numerous benefits for our well-being.

Walking with our dogs allows us to break free from the confines of our homes and to get out into the world where we can immerse ourselves in our surroundings. Getting physical and exposing ourselves to the natural elements revitalizes us, while serving as a much-needed break from the digital realm.

Special relationship with animals

Having spent years training with a traditional Native American doctor (medicine man), I have a uniquely special connection with animals. A big part of my training involves going out to fast alone in the mountains for four days and nights without food or water. It's during this time that I can feel an extraordinarily powerful presence working to facilitate healing within my body and mind. I feel as though I’m in between worlds after I come down from the mountain. I love to hang out with my animal friends during this time.

I work as a conduit by allowing these forces to work through me to facilitate healing within the body and mind. Animals feel this healing presence, and many are drawn to me.

Empathy and compassion

Having spent a considerable amount of time in Sri Lanka, I have found it much easier for me to connect with people. What deeply saddens me is the pervasive lack of care and in many instances, the abuses that dogs and other animals endure. While there are individuals who display compassion by taking in, feeding, and caring for street dogs, it pains me to witness so many animals being left to suffer without any love or support.

I would often give whatever food I could find to the street dogs. But I also felt tremendous sadness and a sense of helplessness, knowing there were limits to what I could do. My intention is to show these dogs whatever care and affection I can to let them know that someone genuinely cares about their well-being. Among these dogs, there was one named “Chuti” whom I consistently fed and even took the time to bathe.

Hanging out with Chuti in Balagolla, Sri Lanka

There are so many dogs and cats in shelters in the United States. Many of these beautiful animals will be put down unless someone comes along and offers to take them in. I feel it's important for us to show love and compassion for animals. Committing to taking a dog or cat in is an investment, but the love we will receive in return makes it well worth it.

It's like having a child

Having a dog or cat is in many ways like caring for a two-year-old child. Their adorability and innocence evoke a sense of pure joy and warmth within us. Just like human children, they rely on us for their basic needs and affection. Their unconditional love creates a unique bond that fills our hearts with immense happiness. Their playful antics and genuine curiosity bring a smile to our faces and brighten even the gloomiest of days.


Caring for dogs, cats, and other animals certainly comes with its fair share of challenges. Puppies can be especially bad about chewing up shoes and phone cords and peeing and pooping on the carpet. House training a dog can be a time-consuming process that demands a great deal of patience and consistency.

Every animal friend has its own unique personality

Sparky on the lookout while Murphy takes a break from bark duty

Like with our human connections, we have a different relationship with every dog, cat or other animal friend that becomes a part of our lives. Murphy, in particular, had a tendency to be more independent and reserved, and I believe this stemmed from the abuse he endured as a puppy. He opened up a lot more to me in his later years.

Mahi is one of the most affectionate dogs I have ever known. She becomes incredibly excited as we are about to go for a walk, often wrapping her legs around mine.

Schnauzers tend to be strong minded, have this adorable growl and I like their physical characteristics a lot. But I also see a lot of pit bulls, Australian blue heelers and other dogs I like. It is important to note that there are countless amazing dogs, of all breeds, residing in animal shelters who are in need of loving homes.

Being responsible to our animal friends

Caring for animals comes with certain responsibilities, and a big part of that is tending to their basic needs. Dogs and other animals require companionship with their own kind to thrive. Additionally, veterinary bills can sometimes be substantial, constituting a financial commitment that should be anticipated. It is disheartening to see people abandoning their aging pets at shelters when the pets start experiencing health challenges, because of their unwillingness to bear the burden of medical expenses.

Having to say goodbye

Certain tropical birds, such as African Gray Parrots with lifespans of fifty, sixty, or even more years, have the potential to outlive us in many instances. One of the most challenging aspects of loving our animal friends is their relatively short life expectancy. On average, dogs have a lifespan of ten to thirteen years, while cats typically live for twelve to eighteen years.

My mom and her then husband took in Murphy in 2005. Murphy and I became especially attached to each other. But my living – working situation has me traveling a great deal and therefore wasn't conducive for keeping a dog.

I had hoped to find a partner in New York City, someone who could take care of Murphy when I was out of town. I know people who have found the love of their life in the city. However, I was never able to establish any lasting connection with a woman in the city. Maybe I’m just not on the right wavelength.

During that period, I divided my time between working in both New York City and Boston. Additionally, I frequently traveled back and forth to Sri Lanka, where I was involved with a woman. Whenever possible, I made sure to return to Northern Idaho to spend time with Murphy.

I experienced a profound sense of sadness as I realized that time was swiftly passing by, knowing that Murphy's wouldn’t be around indefinitely. Murphy had been prone to seizures, which added to my concerns. When Murphy reached the age of eleven, my mother called to inform me that he was unable to get up and that she was considering euthanizing him. I pleaded with her to wait, saying that I at least needed to see him to say goodbye.

Fortunately, Murphy made a recovery after that incident. However, I had an acute awareness that his time with us was limited. I started working on Murphy late in the evenings after he had fallen asleep on my bed. During the last year of his life, I made three additional trips back to Northern Idaho to spend as much time as I could with him. My mother commented on how Murphy seemed to come back to life whenever I returned to see him. I believe that those sessions and the time spent together prolonged Murphy's life by at least a year and a half.

Murphy died shortly before what would have been his fourteenth birthday. I was devastated. As I mentioned before, I felt that I had lost my best friend and my own child. I didn't know if I could experience such a deep emotional bond and feel love like that for an animal again.

Shortly after Murphy's passing, I returned to Sri Lanka. Whenever I encountered street dogs, I couldn't help but think of him. Thoughts flooded my mind during these encounters, contemplating how I could make their lives even just a little easier and wondering how I could convey my care and concern for them.

The owner of Two Dogs Leather, who repairs my backpacks in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, had recently experienced the loss of one of his own dogs. Though I don't recall his exact words, he said something to the effect that he couldn't bear to go through that kind of loss again.

Losing our animal children is incredibly painful, but it's a part of life. I feel it's better to love and to have lost, than to never know love at all.

Just as the blossoms return in the spring, new animal friends are continuously being born into this world. By allowing ourselves to grieve when we experience losses, we enhance our capacity to love and appreciate those who are currently a part of our lives.

©Copyright 2023 Ben Oofana. All Rights Reserved.

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