Hello My Lovely
I don’t know about you, but I can’t imagine life on this beautiful planet without animals.
In this post, I want to pay homage to the precious animal companions we share our lives with including 15 amazing health benefits we enjoy from living with pets.
How Would We Survive Without Animals?
Don’t panic, I’m not going to go all David Attenborough on you and start listing all the ways that humans, and climate change are impacting so many species around the world.
Although it’s true, and we are all aware of it.
But, while we can watch wonderful documentaries about the world’s amazing creatures, I am always more taken aback by what happens closer to home.
I know that not everyone can have, or chooses to have a pet. But for those of us who do, I’m certain you have some incredibly memorable moments where your animal companions have surprised you with their innate understanding of your emotions.
Yes, they rely on us to feed them and give them somewhere to shelter. But the way they reward us goes far beyond what we would expect from a non-human.
I’m sure that you have experienced dark days, particularly during this crazy-awful pandemic, and also in other aspects of your life. Some issues can feel insurmountable at times. Particularly for those of us who are prone to anxiety or depression.
Or people whose mood is affected by bad weather. Yes, that’s a thing. It’s called ‘Seasonal Affective Disorder’.
Maybe if you’re highly sensitive like me, you can be totally overwhelmed by constant dramatic news on TV about all the crap going on in the world. There are so many ways our emotions can be impacted.
Modern life is a constant barrage of issues and information, much of which can be negative, and for the most part we just have to find a way to deal with it.
“She Needs Me So I’ll Make A Fuss Of Her!”
Just when all feels lost (dramatic but very real at times), our cat Juno would saunter over and make a huge fuss of my leg.
If that didn’t get the required reaction, he decided that lounging all over my computer keyboard as if attempting to polish it would get more attention.
Totally annoying as my screen changed and I lost my work…but sooo endearing.
Before I know it, I’m so amused by his rolling, purring and the little fluffy paw that keeps reaching out to touch my arm, that I’ve completely forgotten my woes from 5 minutes before.
Finally he falls asleep on my keyboard purring contentedly. I’m sure the heat of the computer had something to do with it. Either way, I didn’t have the heart to move him so that was the end of my work for the evening.
Amazingly…all was ‘right’ with the world again!
Dogs Have The Same Sense Of Our Emotions
Similarly, when there was some sort of drama or terrible news on TV and it affected my mood, our dog Boston would suddenly decide, for no apparent reason, to get up and drape himself completely across me on the sofa.
He was actually so heavy my legs went numb!
His head would be thrown back, jowls hanging loosely exposing an upside-down toothy grin and tongue flopping to one side, insisting on a belly rub. If I chose to ignore him, he would squirm and snort until I complied.
Short of pushing him off the sofa, (kinda difficult), I accepted that he was there to stay until he was ready to move.
Accepting that he’s not going anywhere, I may as well make a fuss of him. The tragic news fades into the background and I forget the devastation I had just been watching and feeling distressed about.
My husband rattling the kibble jar would do the trick once the blood flow to my legs had stopped!
Sometimes, I can’t help wondering if our pets can actually understand the TV, because their timing is so impeccable. I can only put it down to their ability to be so in tune with us, that they sense our mood change.
I think it’s almost impossible not to feel a positive attitude with an animal around, so I consider having pets to be a wonderful form of self-care and mindful therapy.
This is an astonishing health benefit that can’t be understated. It’s amazing to me, how owning and interacting with a pet can have such an impact.
Actually, I don’t like to say that we own our pets. To a certain extent I think that they own us.
Particularly cats. There’s a wonderful saying:
Dogs have owners, cats have staff!
Sometimes this appears to be true as cats can often seem aloof and very much have a mind of their own. At other times they’re extremely animated and adept at letting you know what they want.
I love their independent, obstinate streak. Kind of reminds me of my own personality.
Also, they seem to rule the roost with any dog in the house which makes for some funny antics and interactions. But this can also develop into some surprisingly close bonds between them.
Its a myth that dogs and cats don’t get along! They frequently play, and then curl up to sleep together.
Experiencing Great Joy From Loving Intervention
How is it that pets just seem to know when you need some reassurance and love…sometimes even before it’s become obvious to you.
I have a lovely story to illustrate this.
Some years ago, my friend rescued a scruffy little dog from the RSPCA. Its hair was matted and filthy. No-one could work out if it was a particular breed, or a mutt. It had fleas, probably worms, and looked like it hadn’t seen a meal in weeks.
Once all the knotted fur was clipped it became obvious ‘it’ was a boy. My friend decided to name him Buddy.
Despite what he had been through, Buddy was a wonderfully sweet-natured dog. He quietly endured a bath, haircut, blow-dry, having his nails trimmed, taking medication to rid him of worms, fleas and ticks, plus a general health check.
Finally Buddy emerged from his day-spa as a pretty little dog with a slight overbite on his bottom teeth, and a BIG personality.
I think it’s true when people who have rescued animals say, that the animal seems to appreciate they were saved from a miserable existence. In Buddy’s case, he lavished affection on anyone and everyone that came anywhere near him.
He had this endearing little quirk of emitting a quick yap, accompanied by jumping his front paws off the ground when anyone called his name.
We never quite knew what breed he was…maybe some Poodle, mixed with Yorkie, and maybe some others thrown in. I can’t imagine how any person could have dumped such a gentle soul.
Instead, I prefer to think that he got lost and, unable to find his way home, he just wandered the streets waiting for someone with a big heart to give him a new life.
The Wonderful Therapy We Can Enjoy From Pets
One day, my friend’s mother suggested that she take him into the local nursing home to visit the residents as a ‘Comfort Dog’.
So many people miss the pets they had when they lived in their own homes, but they can no longer have them in the aged care facility.
Buddy bounded in as if he had known each resident all their lives. He knew instinctively not to be boisterous with the elderly. He sat next to them or on their knee, making a huge fuss over everyone.
His yap and funny little jump whenever his name was called quickly became a great source of fun for all who saw it.
The health benefits for the residents was dramatic and immediate.
Residents who didn’t speak much began to chat. Some people who didn’t normally want to interact, clambered to cuddle him, asking about his life and the story of his rescue.
Nurses came in and sat chatting with everyone in the room, later commenting on the changes they were seeing in the residents after each visit by Buddy.
And always, the question was asked
“when is Buddy coming back?”
Not long after he began his visits, he was rewarded with a beautiful little jacket made by two residents with the help of the nurses. The jacket was blue and emblazoned with the words ‘Buddy’ in big red letters on the back.
Sadly I no longer have a photo of Buddy but this is very similar to how he looked. Imagine him in the little blue jacket stamping his front paws…so cute!
Unfortunately, it transpired that Buddy was older than first expected.
He lived for 5 years and then passed away from cancer, leaving a huge hole in everyone’s heart. He had brought so much joy to so many and changed the mental health of the aged care residents he had interacted with.
Not to mention the wonderful life he enjoyed for his final 5 years, compared to a terrible fate that may have befallen him had my friend not rescued him.
Traveling Means We No Longer Have Our Own Pets
When my husband and I decided to change our lives and become digital nomads, we found loving homes for our beautiful pets before we left Australia.
We are still in touch with their human companions, getting regular updates on their lives via zoom and social media.
Instead, we now get our pet therapy from interacting with other people’s wonderful animals by House Sitting.
And it’s not just dogs and cats! There have been ferrets, rabbits, birds, fish, lizards, and even a pet rat, which was a surprisingly affectionate little creature.
Also, we’ve raised two litters of kittens (unexpectedly) as no-one realized the mother cats were pregnant.
If we decide to stay in one place again, we will definitely be rushing to share our lives with another permanent companion (or two). I can’t imagine life without them.
We need that unconditional love, that insistence on tummy rubs, drooling jowls, playing with fluffy paws, computer keyboard ‘polishing’ and the soulful looks that animals give you…just when you need it the most.
15 Amazing Health Benefits Of Living With Pets
1. Stress Levels & Blood Pressure Are Lowered
This is a natural response to a creature giving us attention and love. We can’t help but respond emotionally and this helps to produce Dopamine, the feel-good hormone and a reduction in Cortisol which is the hormone associated with stress.
2. Lower Stress Leads To An Improved Immune System
Studies have shown that even just petting an animal can lower your blood pressure. This is one of the reasons Therapy & Comfort Dogs are being used in hospitals, particularly for children recovering from a serious illness.
3. Pets Stop You Feeling Lonely
This is particularly relevant for the elderly, or anyone who may have lost a partner. The sudden void left by the loss of that person can be devastating.
Pets can help to give back a reason to carry on, and enjoy the companionship.
You dog will also help keep your social skills and cognitive function sharper than if your are living alone. This is another reason dogs are wonderful for visiting the elderly living in aged care facilities
It’s been proven to help reduce agitated behavior in people with dementia.
4. Pet Interaction Reduces Anxiety
It’s hard to stay panicked about things when you have a little creature making a fuss of you, giving you love no matter what else is happening in your life.
You will be the center of their universe and their antics will keep you amused.
5. Their Love Is Unconditional – Human Love Usually Isn’t
An animal’s love, particularly that of a dog is unconditional. As we all know, human love is usually not unconditional. It’s natural…just a part of our human way of being.
You will know that the animal is totally besotted with you no matter what you do or say. Even dogs that are mistreated stay loyal to their owners (alas), even though that love isn’t deserved.
6. Pets May Detect If You Have An Illness
Dogs have such an amazing sense of smell, and they are so in tune with you that they have been know to literally smell a part of your body where you have the onset of illness such as cancer.
If you notice your dog taking an unusual interest in the same part of your body, go have yourself checked out by your physician.
You’ll be surprised how serious illness can be caught early if you pay attention to what your pet is trying to tell you.
7. Their Antics Are A Constant Source Of Amusement
Animals are a constant source of amusement. Even the small ones. The little rat we looked after had a trick where he liked to jump from one hand to another.
He would wait for my husband to move his hand in front of the other so the rat could jump across.
He would also, hold the cage and rattle it to be given a peanut, even though the cage door was open. When life is getting you down you will always be laughing at something your furry friend is up to. It’s so cute that this little pet rat had such personality.
8. They Can Make You Feel Safe in Your Home And Out Walking
It’s a known fact that burglars don’t want to invade a house where there is a dog…particularly a fairly big dog.
No criminal wants to interact with an angry, protective creature that can potentially do them some serious injury. Much easier to move on to another residence.
Similarly, you are very unlikely to be approached when out walking. So you will enjoy an increased sense of security having your canine buddy around.
However, guard against protection becoming aggression by training your dog to understand the difference. Otherwise you may find his misplaced ‘protection’ being directed at other walkers, dogs or worse still, kids!
9. They Will Keep You Fit – Dogs Need To Walk
Your dog will help to keep you fit. Even the smallest dog wants to go ‘walkies’. The bigger they are, the more insistent they will be, as your home isn’t interesting enough for them.
They need fresh smells to enjoy each day.
They want to find out what all the other dogs in the neighborhood are up to…who’s been where etc. It’s their version of social media!
10. They Help You Have Structure – They Need Regular Feeding
Animals thrive on a structured life. They seem to have an in-built body clock, much more than we do. They know when it’s time for food, treats, walks, and when other member of the household are due home.
This structure can also work well for humans.
You can take advantage of this routine to organize your own life, whereas you may otherwise drift through your day and not achieve as much.
11. They Encourage You to Be Playful
As adults, we can lose our sense of play. This is particularly true as our children grow up and spend more time outside the family home.
We don’t naturally play once we mature, so having an animal around who wants to play tug-of-war or fetch the ball can be a great opportunity to have some fun.
I loved getting out into the park with a frisbee, even though I seemed to spend more time retrieving it than Boston did. He would easily get distracted by a bird or a stick, so a tennis ball would often be a good backup.
Sometimes I’m sure I got more exercise than he did!
12. They Induce a Sense of Calm – Particularly Cats Purring
Animals can induce a sense of calm…particularly cats. (Maybe not your dog snoring – it was louder than my husband!) lol
The frequency of a cat’s purr and knowing that it’s common for cats to purr when contented, can help you experience a sense of peace and calm.
But actually, cats also purr when they are stressed as they use it as a mechanism to calm themselves. But under normal circumstances this won’t be the case in your home environment…maybe at the vets which often surprises people!
Interestingly, in the wild, kittens purr quietly so as to attract their mother’s attention without giving their location away to potential predators.
13. Animals Teach You to Live in The Moment
Your pets can teach you how to live in the moment. Animals don’t possess a sense of regret. They live in the moment all the time. This is obviously a natural survival mechanism but we can learn a lot from this.
Regretting the past is pointless. It can’t be re-lived. Instead, be like your pets and live for now and plan for the future because that’s what is really important and productive.
14. Chatting To Your Pet Is Therapy – You Can Tell Them Anything
We all talk to ourselves. Go on, admit it. Firstly, we get the answers we want…secondly it’s just your inner voice being said out loud.
The problem is, that as humans we can take offense to what people say out loud. Your inner voice may not be what they agree with or want to hear.
Talking to your pet, you can be sure they will always agree with you. You can indulge in a long therapy conversation, thrashing out subjects that are giving you grief…conversations you would probably have to pay a Therapist for.
Then ask your dog whether you’re right, he will answer with a resounding bark. This is to be interpreted as a ‘yes’, because in his eyes, you are never wrong. Revel in it!
15. Pet Ownership Encourages Self-Care – They Are Relying On You
When your pets are reliant on your for their survival, you will make sure that you are there for them. It’s unlikely you will go to the store to buy pet food and not bother buying food for yourself.
Similarly, when you know they need walking, bathing, creative interaction and vet visits to keep them healthy, chances are you will also take care of yourself so you can take care of your pet effectively.
I am thankful for every animal interaction, whether it’s a domesticated pet, or a wild critter we come across on our travels. The world is truly a better place with them in it.
BTW, my sincere thanks to David Attenborough and others for their unwavering support of wildlife, and for creating wonderful documentaries that bring our attention to the planet’s incredible animals…endangered and otherwise.
If you feel you would like to bring a pet into your life, particularly a dog or cat, please consider a rescue animal. They have usually had a shitty life, and deserve a second chance to be happy and loved like all creatures.
They will reward you with faithful and unconditional love.
Animal Rescue Humane Society USA
Here’s to happy pets and their human companions. As always, I love to read your comments.