Growing up we did not have pets. My mom always thought they were too messy and she did not particularly care for them. I was ok with it as a child, because I actually was petrified of dogs.
There was a German Shepard that lived next door to us and he would often escape and chase us. His loud ferocious bark would put me in a trance like state of terror. I was so afraid of dogs that if I saw someone walking their dog, I would cross the street so that I was not in close proximity.
When my husband and I had children, we did not want our kids to have the same fear that I grew up with. He was a dog lover, so we both agreed to get a dog .
Being young and naïve, we decided to get our first puppy while I was 6 months pregnant with my first daughter. Probably not the smartest decision, but it broke us in very quickly on what a bigger family would feel like. Even if one of them was a fur baby.
Our first dog, Cody, was a Yellow Labrador Retriever. Cody truly changed my life. He was so gentle and he loved children. If there was a group of kids and a group of dogs standing next to each other, he would choose the group of kids every time. He knew he would be caressed, pet, and loved by the kids. He helped me to understand dogs and their behavior, which allowed me to overcome my phobia of dogs.
I really had no idea how close and attached a family gets to their pet. I remember thinking when I first started going into pet stores, “Wow, there is this whole pet world that exists that I had no idea about prior to Cody.” And now Cody was my best friend. He lived 16 years and when he passed in February 2020, there was such a void in our house.
There were no more greetings of unconditional love every time we walked through the door, or no more “clippity claw” sounds on the hardwood floors, or no more plopping sound when he would settle down for the night.
Pets bring so much joy and happiness into a home. In the past 18 months, during Covid, there has been a surge of puppies being born and adopted. When we started looking, it was nearly impossible to find puppies, and if you found some they were extremely expensive.
After 7 months without a pet, we joined that club, the Covid Puppy Club. We ended up getting a German Shepard mixed puppy named Louie, at 8 weeks old. Yes, I had come a long way since childhood, from having panic attacks related to the dog that chased me, to now having a German Shepard mixed breed as part of our family.
With 3 teen/preteen daughters on Zoom calls for 7 hours a day for school, Louie, our newest family member brought laughter, love, and of course, chaos into the house. It gave the girls responsibility and allowed them to get out of the house during snack and lunch breaks to play with Louie in the yard. He often sat under their desks while they were in school.
I so appreciated and saw firsthand once again, the positive impact a pet can have on a family, especially during difficult times. Study after study shows, how beneficial pets can be to our mental, emotional, and physical health.
Here are 10 really cool health benefits to having a pet.
Pets often need exercise, specifically dogs. This requires an owner to get outside and walk or run, during all four seasons of the year (unless of course your dog has been trained on a treadmill from Caesar Milan). A dog that does not have its regular exercise will sometimes chew or destroy things or could gain weight which impacts its health down the road.
A pet can help to create structure in an owner’s day. As a puppy, our dog needs to be fed 3 times and walked twice a day. That has to be planned and coordinate with 5 people in and out of the house.
3. Socialization & New Friends
A pet can help you meet new people and make new friends in your area. Every day when I walk my dog I meet new people or talk to other dog owners walking their dogs.
A pet provides a purpose, especially for people that may live alone. When you are responsible for another living being, it will force you to be present and to do things that you may not feel like doing. However, this allows you to take a break and focus on other things, instead of what you may be stressing over at that moment.
5. Depression & Anxiety
Pets can help people that struggle with depression and anxiety. Studies have shown that playing with a pet can increase levels of serotonin and dopamine. These are “feel good” hormones that the body naturally produces.
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6. Special Needs & Sensory
Emotional Support animals have become very common in this day and age. Animals, such as horses, cats, rabbits, dogs, etc are known to provide tremendous benefit to individuals and children that have special needs, such as autism and sensory issues. Pets and animals have a calming effect on most people but are even more impactful for people with special needs.
7. Heart Disease
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that owning a pet can decrease cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure.
Studies show that heart attack patients with pets, survive longer than those without.
9. Human Touch
A pet fulfills the basic human need for touch.
10. Immune System
A recent article reveals that elderly pet owners go to the doctor less frequently than non-pet owners.
There are a lot of benefits to having a pet, but they are also a big responsibility. Making the decision to adopt a pet is a very big deal. It is not a decision to make lightly. However, if you decide that having a pet is for you, in my experience the benefits and the connection you will feel will with them will far outweigh the responsibilities that come with them.
Laura is a Holistic Health Coach & Founder of Holistic Life Community in Wakefield, MA. She opened this center to be a resource & provide a community of holistic professionals that are dedicated and passionate in helping, educating & guiding people on their journey to find health, balance and joy in life again. Her 3 daughters propelled her into this work, when they were born with severe food allergies. Regular medicine provided no solutions, so she went on a mission to find a way to help her kids. She looked to Alternative Medicine and found holistic approaches that cured her kids of their food allergies, Lyme Disease and then her own life long struggle with depression & anxiety. She is passionate about giving people hope using holistic approaches.
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