Originally posted April 11, 2012.
"Pets respond eagerly to care and attention, offering unconditional love and non-threatening touch…crucial human needs” (Walsh, 2009)
As I walk through the ski village of Squaw Valley, California, well, it sure is hard to feel anything but sheer joy! Lots of smiling people, covered in snow, with sunburned faces.
It is so restorative to get away from the routine of work and school, and not be on a timetable. I am fortunate to be able to enjoy such beauty. The pine trees are timeless. I feel like my skin is permeable, as I soak up the energy of the natural beauty.
You know, I notice there are an awful lot of dogs here. Everyone seems to have a dog, trotting happily next to them. Many aren’t on a leash, but they stay close by, not wandering, obviously used to this set-up. The people and dogs look so happy. A lot of the dogs rub themselves joyfully in the snow. Fun to watch.
There are families here, and the younger kids are also joyfully rolling in the snow, throwing snowballs at each other.
Getting back to the dogs. So what is it about dogs and people? Being a therapist, I can cite research about human-animal bonds, about how comforting therapy dogs are for those with severe mental illness and for those elderly with dementia. There is also research that shows people’s blood pressure lowers when stroking their pets and elderly people who have pets are healthier than those who do not have pets.
Being a dog-owner, I can say from personal experience how much my pets mean to me and what good companions they are. They are always happy to see me and think I am great. I think they are great, too. Of course, I have lots of human relationships, but my pets are unique in their happy personalities and their ability to cheer me up and de-stress me. Dolly & Sammy are my two miniature poodles posing below! So cute and fluffy! And they don’t shed!
Dogs are great companions! Take a look at the adventures of Tom & Atticus as they hiked the White Mountains, raising money for cancer research!
And check out Kevin Hanrahan’s blog and book about military dogs. He served in Afghanistan and his dogs helped him cope with the horrors of war.
So, if you are feeling lonely, depressed, anxious, owning a pet has been shown by research to relieve symptoms of depression, reduce stress, provide a source for an unconditional, loving relationship and expand your emotional repertoire.
It’s just another way to enhance your life = Increase Joy, Decrease Drama. Call it self-help, call it a mindbody practice…it’s just another way to put more joy in your life and help manage emotions!
Do you have a companion animal who helps you navigate emotional ups and downs?
Walsh, F. (2009). Human-Animal Bonds II: The Role of Pets in Family Systems and Family Therapy. Family Process, 48(4), 481-499. doi:10.1111/j.1545-5300.2009.01297.x