Above: Mary O'Sullivan and her faithful friend Shep. Photo: Denise O'Sullivan
The Beara Camera Club’s exhibition, entitled ‘Older People and their Dogs’ opened in the library in Castletownbere last month and will run until mid October. The exhibition, which was opened by Seán Ó Laoghaire, Community Arts Facilitator, features photographs of older people in Beara and beyond and the relationship they have with their dogs.
The event is part of Beara PAWS for Wellbeing, a joint project between the HSE and local community organisations, which aims to highlight the positive impact dogs can have on our physical and mental health.
At the opening, Seán Ó Laoghaire said that dogs provide friendship, loyalty and companionship and “are a lightning rod for our emotions. If you’re sad, or feeling depressed, they can take your emotion and ground you.” He added that no matter how much we love and care for our dogs, they “love (us) more and look after (us) a lot more, without (us) realising it.”
Brídín Ashe, Community Worker with the HSE, said that dogs could help make a difference to our health and wellbeing. Studies show, she said, that people with dogs are more likely to exercise and have increased social interaction, both of which are good for your physical and mental health. Dogs add routine to your day, which is especially good if you’re feeling down. Maybe the most important thing is that they provide companionship and unconditional love which can help reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness.”
While more conclusive research is needed, studies also show that: Interacting with a dog may help heart health by lowering blood pressure and regulating the heart rate during stressful situations; Stroking a dog may help you feel calmer and reduce stress by boosting levels of feel-good chemicals in the brain; Having a dog in the home may help build the immune system.
Beara PAWS for Wellbeing will hold a Blessing of Pets on Sunday, October 4, at 2.30pm on the pier in Castletownbere, to mark World Animal Day and St. Francis of Assisi Day. All are welcome. The project is also running a competition on dogs for fifth and sixth classes open to all the national schools in Beara.
For further information on the project, please contact Brídín Ashe, HSE Community Worker, on 086 787 2273.