Photo courtesy of Adrienne McGuire
Last month, our family bid goodbye to our beloved 12-year-old pug, Bruno. That’s him in the picture. He was quite an amazing dog, full of personality and attitude. He demanded attention and would howl in sadness anytime we left the house without him. My children never knew a life without a fluffy, pug-nosed friend following them around. He lived a good life, but last month his health quickly deteriorated. Losing our two-foot tall faithful companion was extremely sad, indeed.
I admit that having a pet is a huge responsibility, but the rewards are definitely worth it. Pet owners put a lot of time and effort into ensuring that their pets are healthy, well cared for, and happy. What they might not realize is, that time and effort will be returned tenfold because of the positive effects of bonding with their pet. Spending only 15 minutes cuddling with a furry friend causes the level of cortisol (a stress hormone) in the body to drop, and boosts serotonin (a happy hormone). Blood pressure and heart rates are lower in pet owners too.
I know that spending time with Bruno definitely helped me when I was feeling sad, because I always had a really good listener to talk to. Pets love us unconditionally, and will offer us emotional support no matter what life throws at us. Also, the act of caring for and walking our pets forces us to move around and stop brooding, and, in fact, studies have shown that dog owners actually have a much easier time recovering from both physically and emotionally traumatic events.
A dog who gets walked everyday undoubtedly has a healthier human holding the leash! And, cat owners have great circulation and fewer strokes than the rest of us. It seems that cat owners, while lavishing their kitty with love and attention, divert themselves from other stressful triggers. Additionally, pet owners usually enjoy talking with other pet owners. This leads to more healthy interaction with other people, which is essential for keeping a healthy mind and can lead to improvements in other areas of life as well, professionally and personally.
Since my children grew up with Bruno, they are less likely to develop allergies, and more likely to have a stronger immune system. This will ideally lead to less sick days for them when they reach adulthood, which, for at least one of my children, might entail working with animals! He says he would like to help sick animals or teach service dogs how to help sick humans. (Animal lover through and through.) Service dogs can be trained to pick up dropped items, open doors, and warn their owner about impending dangers.
It’s clear that adopting a pet benefits both animals and humans. They help us to stay physically active, mentally balanced and happier overall, which makes finding success in other areas of our lives that much easier. If you have ever considered bringing a pet into your home, maybe now is the time to go for it. I know Bruno and I were both much better off for having known each other.