Woman’s Best Friend: The Special Bond Between Irish Women & Their Soul Dogs

The best boys

Every day on my commute to work I pass by the statue of Countess Markievicz in Dublin’s city centre. There she stands in bronze, alongside her trusty companion, Poppet, the cocker spaniel.

You only have to do a quick Google search on the pair to read anecdotes on how inseparable the two were during the revolution (the story of Poppet getting an armed escort after the Countess was arrested is one of my favourites). I can’t help but smile when I see the pair, and secretly hope that one day I’ll be immortalised similarly with my dog.

Not that I’ve done anything to warrant such, but there’s something comforting in the possibility of being side-by-side with my four-legged pal for eternity. I sometimes struggle with the ‘marketing’ of dogs. Commonly referred to as ‘man’s best friend’, I’ve always secretly thought that dogs are more, for the girls. I know by ‘man’s’ best friend they mean human, and yes, the human-canine relationship is a fascinating one. But for me, I think the bond between a woman and a dog runs so deep, is so all-encompassing, that you can’t ignore it.

Think of Dorothy and Toto, Elle Woods and Bruiser, and one of my favourite dog moms – the recently passed, Betty White. She famously said: “Once someone has had the good fortune to share a true love affair with a golden retriever, one’s life and one’s outlook is never quite the same.” I relate to Betty’s words completely. When I think of my own relationship with my dog, Ringo, I can safely say, we’re best friends.

That might sound pathetic to some people, he’s an animal, but that tiny dachshund boy has quite literally been by my side for the last six years. He sat with me as I wrote my dissertation, he punctuated my day for the entire two years of the pandemic, he’s brought me comfort through sad losses, and even right now as I type this he’s curled up in my lap asleep. There’s a joke in my house, wherever I go, he goes – to the kitchen, the bathroom, don’t judge me, but he even sleeps in my bed with me.

Adele & Ringo

One of my favourite things to do with him is head to the coast on a walk, pick a bench, and sit there with him watching the world go by. People will spot us and often comment on how happy we look sitting there together, and it’s true, because we are! A dog teaches you to slow down, they make you find pleasure in the small things, and their wholesome energy is infectious.

But I’m not just losing my mind convincing myself that women and dogs are just as bonded as our male counterparts, I’d even argue we’re more so. Nor am I only speaking from personal experience. There’s a science to back me up. Researchers from Washington State University found that historically, women have more influence on dogs than men.

Documents from anthropologists found that where women and canines were involved, their relationship ran deeper, contributing to the domestication of canines worldwide. In many cultures, dogs were given names by females, fed by them, cuddled and slept beside them, and this treatment of dogs meant that they have remained co-evolutionary throughout time, making them the most successful domesticated animal to live. And aren’t we glad that women helped to cement the furry friends into our lives, because without them, many of us would have never met our ‘soul dog’.

The idea of a soul dog has gained momentum in recent years, thanks to social media. You know what a soulmate is, right? Well, a soul dog is essentially that for you, but in the four-legged form. It’s a pup in your life that you’ve created a once-in-a-lifetime relationship with. You’ll know if your dog is your soul dog from the special bond you both have, you can look at each other and tell how the other one is feeling, you can communicate through body language, you feel deep content in one another’s presence, and you can be entirely yourself around them.

Caoimhe & Roscoe

Ringo is my soul dog, and I’m not the only woman who has a close bond with my pet. 30-year-old Caoimhe spoke with STELLAR about her dog and how she feels he was meant to be in her life. After sadly losing her grandmother, Caoimhe’s dog Roscoe entered.  “I truly feel he was sent to me by my grandmother. Her passing hit extremely hard, and only a few days after her passing I got the message that Roscoe was born. Not only that, but Roscoe has two different coloured eyes, just like me, and I like to think that was a little message from my granny.”

Caoimhe took Roscoe home around the same time she was pregnant, which she attributes to their closeness, “Although he’s friendly with everyone we definitely have a deeper connection. He minded me throughout my whole pregnancy, which was a difficult one, and made me feel so happy after such a challenging year.”

Another Irish woman with a close bond to her dog is trainee clinical psychologist Gráinne. She has two dogs, Romeo and Kanye, and she says that although she loves them both equally, there’s something special about her relationship with Romeo. “We have had Romeo since he was about 5 weeks old, he was abandoned in a bog and we fostered him through a dog charity and we never let him go! I believe our relationship is very special as he’s been with us his entire life.”

Gráinne & Romeo

Gráinne also says that she feels Romeo can tell when she’s down or needs some attention, “I believe over the years, my nervous system has come to recognise Romeo as a safe and calming stimulus.” Describing him as her ‘best friend’, Gráinne says that without a doubt Romeo is her soul dog, “I would describe all my dogs as soul dogs. With rescue dogs, it feels like there’s an extra element of fate to how you come to adopt your dog.”

If this doesn’t convince you that women and dogs are a match made in heaven, I’m not sure what will. So here’s to all the dog mom’s out there, and to my Ringo, who’s enriched my life in ways I could have never imagined. Thanks for being my best friend.