I love my dogs and cats and can always come up with an excuse to talk about them. They are a source of great happiness for me. Since I am home right now, I spend a lot of my time just hanging out with them and can testify to the fact that I get a lot from the relationship I have with them. I am so close with my 13 year old sheltie corgi mix, Minnie, that she can sense when I am having a bad day and will not leave my side until I am doing better. When I am manic and raging, instead of hiding from me, she will come to me and do her absolute best to take my attention away from whatever is upsetting me. She is an amazing creature and I am so thankful for her. I truly believe that she and my other animals are simply love incarnate.
Animals have been used for years in therapy and there is growing evidence that they provide relief for a large variety of illnesses and conditions, including mental illness. Many types of animals have been used for years as therapy animals (see my post on animal assisted therapy) in a variety of settings . Just having pets has been proven to provide all sorts of health benefits for their owners such as lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and increasing serotonin and dopamine. Animals in a therapeutic setting have been shown to help facilitate healing, improve self esteem and reduce anxiety about medical procedures. I definitely get a lot from the relationship I have with my animals, even though it is not in a therapeutic setting. Here are my top 5 reasons that my dogs are my best therapists.
1. They Decrease My Depression
When I am in the midst of depression, I isolate myself completely from people. My dogs provide me with companionship during these times. They also provide me with a connection to this world when my depression takes a serious downward turn. Sometimes just their presence can divert my thoughts away from what is bothering me. Their unconditional love and acceptance offer me a source of solace when I am too ill to deal with other people.
2. They Decrease My Anxiety
When my anxiety is really high, just sitting and petting my cat can help to sooth my frayed nerves. They love the attention and will sit there as long as I am willing to love on them. It helps to calm me down and offers me a distraction from what is disturbing me. If I am really upset about something my dogs will come and sit with me until I feel better. Just sitting their and snuggling with one of my dogs helps to lower my stress and consoles me.
3. My Dogs Will Listen To Me Endlessly
While most people only have, at the most, an hour with their their therapist, a dog will listen to you endlessly. When I am trying to work something out, I sometimes talk to my dogs about it. It helps me to organize things in my head and provides me a sounding board for ideas. Sometimes it is just better to hear something out loud and they don’t care what you are saying, just as long as you are paying attention to them.
4. They Increase My Happiness
Watching my dogs play is a source of great happiness for me. I love to watch them chase each other around and act goofy. I also love playing fetch with them or sitting down and teaching them new tricks. Even in the midst of depression or anxiety, watching them enjoy themselves and seeing that they are happy, makes me smile and improves my mood while I am paying attention to their antics.
5. My Dogs Increase My Socialization
Even in the midst of severe depression, I have to walk my dogs every day and that puts me out amongst other people. Often times, people want to stop and pet them or ask questions about them. Other pet owners will want to stop and chat with me about my dogs. The dogs want to greet and play together and that makes time to interact with the owners. It helps to distract me from my depression because I have an opportunity to talk about my dogs with others who have the same interest.
I get so much out of the relationship I have with my animals. I have always been around animals and cannot imagine a life without them. I strongly recommend pet ownership to anyone. I do so with a caveat, however. If you are going to bring home a pet, do it knowing that you are committing to a relationship that spans their lifetime, whatever that may be. Just as you will form an attachment to them, they will do the same with you. Keeping them while it is convenient for you and then giving them away is not only cruel, it is destructive to the animals well being. This was always a pet peeve of mine when I was working as a veterinary technician. I strongly urge research into the type of animal that you would be most comfortable with and that will fit easily into your lifestyle. For example, if you live in an apartment, you definitely wouldn’t want to get a dog like a Labrador Retriever , who is high energy and requires a large yard. Also, if you are not home a lot, a cat or a fish may be more appropriate. There are all sorts of websites that will help you decide what type of pet is good for you (Selectsmart, Pet Picker). I would also urge adoption or rescue above purchasing from a breeder any day. The cost is a lot lower and you will be providing a home to an animal in need. I’ll get down off of my soapbox now.
I am obviously in favor of having pets in your life. I have 4 dogs and 2 cats and they bring me so much joy and unconditional love. It is worth every penny that I spend on their care and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. See the videos below for more information on animal assisted therapy and choosing a pet that fits into your lifestyle.
This post is happily shared on thatredheadedlife.