Furry Friends: Why We Love Our Animals
From dogs and cats to horses and goats, the human/animal connection is an important one. The bond is so strong and undeniable, it seems like we are hardwired to love our pets. And why wouldn't we? The relationships we have with our animals are like no other. Animals offer us unconditional love in a way that not many humans are capable. They don’t care about our status, income, or how we look. They never criticize or judge. They want to be around us no matter our mood, and in fact, many of them seem to have an uncanny knack for knowing when we’re feeling sad or sick, and seek us out to offer comfort during those times. The emotional benefits are so vast that therapy dogs are now routinely brought into setting like nursing homes, behavioral health centers, and even children’s hospitals. Some forward thinking doctors have begun assigning therapy animals to people with severe anxiety or depression, or even prescribing pets. Prisons that have introduced programs in which inmates train and care for guide dogs have reported notable decreases in fights and assaults on guards, and increases in shows of empathy and compassion, even amongst violent offenders. Not only are our pets good for our emotional health, they can also be good for our physical health. Petting a cat or watching fish in an aquarium can lower your blood pressure. According to Dr. Oz, owning a cat can reduce your risk of heart attack by a third! Walking, running, and playing with your dog gets you off the couch and ensures that you’re exercising on a daily basis. Caring for horses or other farm animals can require hard physical labor that doubles as a great workout. Caring for animals also requires selflessness on our parts at times. Nothing teaches children responsibility in a more fun and loving way than having them help care for family pets. Regardless of our age, the acts of feeding, watering, walking, grooming, and playing with our pets reminds us to put aside some of our more selfish tendencies. Yes, you might want to sleep in, but if your puppy is hungry and needs to do its business, you’ll probably willingly drag yourself out of bed to make sure that he doesn't suffer. Every time you put the puppy first, you grow as a person. Not every animal lover is able to have pets. Whether you have time and budget constraints that would make it irresponsible to get a pet, or your landlord won’t allow you to get a four-legged friend and your lease isn't up for another year, you can still reap the rewards of wonderful relationships with them. Offer to help a busy friend by walking their dog a few times a week or pet sitting when they travel. Volunteer at an animal shelter, where both the staff and the animals will greatly appreciate your efforts. You’ll feel great about what you’re doing, and the animals will get the love and attention they so desperately need. Everyone wins. Maybe win/win is the best way to sum up the human/animal dynamic. We love our animals, and our animals clearly love us. We meet their needs for food, water, exercise, and veterinary care, and in return our health improves as our blood pressure and stress levels drop and our exercise increases. These mutually beneficial, unconditional, and agenda-free relationships are good for everyone involved. What would happen if we treated our relationship with other people in the same way? It’s worth considering. Devon is a Licensed Professional Clinical/Substance Abuse Counselor, Personal Life Coach, Certified Personal Trainer, and a nationally certified teacher. She is committed to helping young people be their highest selves in all areas: body, mind, and spirit. Her expertise, enthusiasm, energy and educational background serve to create a unique blend of services and techniques employed to help you reach your goals. For counseling sessions, coaching, or training, please contact her at 505.469.0779 or firstname.lastname@example.org.