Life in our household has never been the same since Penny came to live with us. I'm sure we laugh out loud more often and we certainly behave like silly kids on a regular basis - that's why the corridor wall is dotted with muddy imprints from tennis balls and the floor is often littered with tug toys. She makes us feel good.
Perhaps we needn't have gone to all the expense of buying a real dog. I've just come across an interesting report on a study in which a robot dog was compared with a real dog in easing loneliness in nursing home residents. People were questioned about their level of loneliness before the study and were visited for thirty minutes each week by either the robot, Aibo, or a gentle dog, Sparky. The conclusion was that there was no difference.
I must say, to me this seems quite an absurd result. I'd want to know how the study ruled out any effect of the experimenter visiting each week to bring the dog or robot. And maybe the residents liked feeling that they were part of this study. I think it's a comment on the practice of expecting people to live out the last part of their lives in such an unstimulating environment that even a machine makes them feel a bit better.
On the other hand, I have happy memories of that stuffed toy dog I had when I was a child. And I sure thought R2D2 was a lovable character in Star Wars - he seemed really alive. Who knows? Maybe in the future when we've killed off all the other species on earth we can all have loving relationships with a pile of animated metal.
I found the reference to the report by following a link from The News Buckit.