The Reasons Why I Need to Hug My Dogs

I have put up with some annoying and downright upsetting stuff on the internet. I endured posts debating the color of The Dress. I have sifted through the minutiae of every Kardashian's life. I gritted my teeth scrolling through articles about Ted Cruz equating transgender people with sexual predators. Endless photos of a smug, orange Donald Trump smile back at me on every social media and news site.

I can tolerate all of that nonsense. But in the past weeks, the internet has gone too far with a new viral story. I cannot take it anymore. I want to scream out, loud and clear:

I WILL HUG MY DOGS!

Everywhere (Facebook, Twitter, blogs, respectable news sites, gossipy web pages, you name it), there have been headlines about how hugging your dog is harmful and wrong! wrong! wrong! --
  • "Stop Hugging Your Dog, He Hates It"
  • "Dogs Hate Being Cuddled"
  • "Science: Your Dog Hates Being Hugged"
  • "Your Dog Wants a Hug But Science Says No"
  • "The Next Time You Want to Hug Your Dog, Just Don't"
  • "Don't Hug Your Dog - It Drives Him Barking Mad"

This is too much. I have put up with all that other internet crap. But not this.

Despite the screeching headlines, the Anti-Hug movement is not generated from a scientific study. It started as a blog post from Dr. Stanley Coren in Psychology Today. Dr. Coren conducted a random sampling of photos on the internet of people hugging their dogs. He concluded that most dogs appeared stressed. This unscientific, non-peer-reviewed "study" is, in reality, just one man's opinion. But, as the internet is apt to do, the information in Dr. Coren's post has been twisted and manipulated to create click-baiting headlines.

I understand that if you smother a dog too hard, or if you restrain a dog too much, the dog will feel stress. In these instances, dogs do not want to be hugged. There are some people do not want to be hugged either. Take, for example, Ted Cruz' daughter:

This video has not resulted in a "Stop Hugging Your Children, They Hate It!" viral movement.

Some dogs want hugs. One of my four dogs wakes me up every morning so she can cuddle. I regularly throw my arms around all of my dogs and give them kisses (and please don't tell me to stop kissing my dogs). If they are not in the mood, they let me know by wiggling or pulling away. I read each dog's body language and know when and if they will permit me to envelop them in my arms. I do not go around hugging strangers' dogs, just my own. My dogs trust me and we are naturally affectionate.

If I hug my dogs for a few seconds, I doubt that this will cause so much stress as to be harmful. You know what is genuinely harmful to pets? Neglect, physical abuse, hunger, lack of shelter. How about if the internet put a spotlight on the horrific abuses being perpetrated on animals around the world? Loving dog owners are being shamed for hugging their pets because it makes for must-read internet fodder. Yet we turn a collective blind eye to real animal abuse.

Another of my dogs was a victim of horrific abuse before he found his way to my home. He was hit by a car in the streets of Egypt, breaking his back legs. He was ignored for months in this condition and nearly died. Eventually he was saved, had his legs amputated, and was sent to the United States. His is just one example of a much larger problem. Neglect and abuse of animals happens daily all around the world.

My dog's name is Lucky. Getting a hug from me is the least of his problems.

I need a hug from Lucky, or from any of my dogs, every once in a while. You know why? Because Americans care more about a dress color or vapid celebrities' lives than they do about poverty, prejudice, or environmental concerns. I need a hug because I live in a country where, for political gain, a senator can equate someone's identity with criminal activity and he is not censured for it. I need dog hugs because one of the most unqualified candidates in the history of our country is the Republican nominee for president. Hugs provide a little solace when my fellow citizens are promoting and voting for racism, misogyny, xenophobia, and hate.

So stop telling me that I cannot hug my own dogs. "Don't Hug!" headlines distract us from real issues. Isn't it about time that we stopped obsessing over trifles and started taking a frank look at real problems?