National Dog Day is celebrated on August 26 each year. It was founded in 2004 by pet and family lifestyle expert and animal Advocate, Colleen Paige (who also founded National Puppy Day, National Mutt Day and National Cat Day and many more philanthropic days to bring attention to the plight of animals and encourage adoption). The date of August 26th is significant, as it’s the date that Colleen’s family adopted her first dog, “Sheltie,” when Colleen was 10 years old.

National Dog Day celebrates all dogs, mixed breed and pure. The mission is to help galvanize the public to recognize the number of dogs that need to be rescued each year and acknowledges family dogs and dogs that work selflessly each day to save lives, keep us safe and bring comfort. Dogs put their lives on the line every day – for personal protection, for law enforcement, for the disabled, for our freedom and safety by detecting bombs and drugs and pulling victims of tragedy from wreckage. Today, dogs are also detecting cancer and seizures … things even humans cannot do.

So if you’re considering bringing a fur friend into your family, consider rescuing a dog. You’ll be the better for it. Those of us with pets have been found to have lower cholesterol, heart rates, and stress levels than those without. It’s not just dogs and cats who find serenity in a belly rub — pet interaction naturally causes your brain to release oxytocin and serotonin, and even watching your goldfish swim in and out of his little sunken castle for a few minutes can reduce cortisol, a hormone associated with stress.

And that’s why doctors and psychologists advise people suffering from depression, low self-esteem and severe anxiety to adopt a pet. Their calming presence rubs off on their caretakers. On top of that, similarly actively caring for a pet gets you out of your own head and provides you with a positive, affirming way to spend your time. Even taking them out for a walk gives you a different perspective on the world than if you were alone — it’s hard to not reconsider your own priorities when you see your best friend is having the time of his life just sniffing his way down the street.

And with dogs, there’s the fabled “red carpet treatment.” No, I’m not referring to the occasional accident your dog might have on the living room rug. I’m talking about that wild, raucous welcome your dog gives you when you come home – whether it’s from a long, hard day at work or just a quick jaunt to the local grocery store. They make you feel like a rock star, whining, barking, jumping, spinning in circles and wagging their tails as you make your grand entrance. They never tire of letting us know that our homecoming is the highlight of their day.

And, of course, I’ve had the privilege of painting a number of dogs during my career, including Mina Edison’s dog, Cinnamon, and I had the honor of doing the illustrations for Frebie Dog Tales, a book written by my friend, Christian author and Texas resident Betty Reese Freberg.