We had to say goodbye to one of beloved fur-babies on Friday. Technically, he was a dog, but he didn’t know that. He was one of ‘my boys.’ He and his brother came to us in October of 2009. They had been seized from a hoarding situation – the woman had 40 dogs – and they were just little brown bags of skin and bone. They were around 7 months old, and of course, coming from the situation they had, they had no potty training, they hadn’t been socialized at all, and they really didn’t seem to want much to do with us.
It took a while, but after some patience and lots of walks and treats, they became our ‘kids.’ And yes, we’ve spoiled them rotten.
The funny thing is, though, that they have given us just as much as we’ve given them over the years. And as painful as it has been to have to say goodbye to our beloved Coda, the joy he gave us over the years more than makes up for that pain.
Pets can add so much to our lives, and they can even improve our health. Let’s take a look at some of the ways they do that.
How Pets Can Improve Our Health
1. They can help us be more active.
This is especially true if your pet is a dog. As we all know, dogs have to be taken outside several times a day. Whether we take them out for official walks or just walk around with them in the back yard, we’re moving more and — added benefit — getting some fresh air.
2. Pets can help improve brain health.
We know that often, what benefits our bodies also benefits our brains. Physical activity, especially aerobic activity is proven to increase our brain health. This is true even for those who might be at risk for Alzheimer’s or dementia.
When we take our pets out for their walk, we’re working toward that recommended 150 minutes of activity per week.
3. They can reduce stress.
Have you ever noticed that when you’re stressed, if you spend a few minutes with your pet you start to feel better? It’s not just psychological; it’s physiological.
According to Marwan Sabbagh, MD, Director of Cleveland Clinic’s Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, “Simply petting an animal can decrease the level of the stress hormone cortisol and boost release of the neurotransmitter serotonin, resulting in lowered blood pressure and heart rate and, possibly, in elevated mood.”
4. Pets can help us feel less lonely.
Pets give us companionship and help us feel less lonely. Especially now, in this age of social distancing, it’s easy for people to start feeling isolated and alone. Having a pet to care for and talk to can help us feel loved and appreciated.
5. They can help us make social connections.
Pet owners often have an immediate bond when they start talking about their fur babies. All it takes is seeing each other walking your dogs, or talking about the cute things your cat has done lately to spark a whole conversation.
And even if it’s just one of those quick, micro-connections we talked about in The Importance of Connection, it can help improve our sense of ‘belonging’ in the world.
These are just a few of the ways pets can improve our lives. They are such wonderful additions to our lives, but they can also be a lot of work. Before getting a pet, we need to make sure we can give them the care they need to thrive.
Choosing the Right Pet for You
When we’re thinking of adding a pet to our family, there are several things we need to consider. We want to make sure we can give our pets the best life possible while ensuring we don’t overextend our limits of time and energy.
Doing our research ahead of time can help us make sure we choose the pet that’s right for us. Here are the questions the CDC recommends we ask before adopting a pet:
- How long will this animal live?
- What does the pet eat?
- How much exercise does the pet need?
- How large will it become?
- How much will it cost for veterinary care?
- Do I have enough time to properly care for and clean up after the pet?
- What type of habitat does this pet need to be healthy?
- What type of exercise does this pet need?
- Are pets allowed in my house, apartment, or condominium?
- Are there young children, older people, or people with weak immune systems who will care for or be around the pet?
Answering these questions is vital to making sure we choose the right pet for us. Doing our research about their needs ahead of times ensures we’re able to provide the proper level of care for them and gives us the best chance of having a relationship that is beneficial for both our pets and us.
Having a pet adds so much to our lives, and losing them can seem to be almost unbearable at times.
It’s all the little things – the first time we only have one dog’s dinner to prepare; the first night when Tucker seems to be looking for his brother when we go into the bedroom; the first time we’re not on a strict medication schedule in the last two years…. but we are blessed because he was part of our family for 11 years.
Coda was known by several nicknames: Code Man, Frenchman, Mr. Bossy Pants, and most lately, Houdini.
He was extremely adept at backing out of his leash and getting past obstacles we put in his way. After he got so ill a couple of years ago, we started putting our ottoman in front of the door to the family room when we were in there so he couldn’t run around the house. If I left the room temporarily for any reason, he made it his mission to find me. He learned to slide the ottoman enough to make a passageway and come into the back of the house with me. He wasn’t about to be separated from his Mama if he didn’t want to be…. Rest in peace, my little Houdini. You are loved.
Just as Coda added so much to our lives, pets can be such a wonderful addition to many families. We’ve seen some of the ways our pets can improve our health, but it’s not just our health they can impact – they can impact our quality of life. That means they can improve our overall wellness.
Do you have pets? What kind of impact have they had on your health and your quality of life? Please share!