Many of us have memories of our first pet (it’s often our security question if we forget a password) but studies lately are proving that having a pet, especially a dog, can change both your mental and physical outlook on life. People are happier, more involved in their neighborhood, and in better physical condition when they have a pet.
Let’s start with the best part. If you are a parent, you know you come home to craziness a good amount of time. Sibling fights, broken hearts and of course everyone’s head stuck to a phone or a tablet. Not your dog! He/she is “Mom’s home! Yay! Let me hug you, let me kiss you, let me show you why you come home every day”. Mild exaggeration, but you know it’s mostly true. We all wish we could be the people our dog thinks we are. A pet can lift our spirits, calm our anxiety, and take us away from the stresses of the day. Unconditional love will do that.
A dog can also get us moving. Not just a walk around the block, but a walk around the neighborhood. Not just a trip to the beach to lay in the sand, but a swimming marathon because they don’t want to get out of the water. There are very few dogs who don’t get excited when they see (or hear) their leash, and the idea of getting in the car and going somewhere fun to play can make both of you move more often.
A pet is often a social catalyst. You get to know your neighbors as you are out and about. You meet new people at the dog park or just at a regular park. People have much less restraint saying hello to a dog than another person. I know at least 5 people in the neighborhood by the name of their dog. Forgive me, “Casper’s Mom” and “Sugar’s Dad”. It’s still a social interaction and I firmly believe we need a lot more of them in our lives, outside of work.
We cannot forget the service dogs. The highly trained animals that make life so much better and more bearable for so many people. The “seeing eye dogs’, the dogs for the disabled, and the people with PTSD are highly trained animals with a job to do, but they are also loyal and unwavering companions to those who need it most.
Last of all is the elderly. Pet ownership has been studied over the years and though the companionship and the love these animals provide to their elderly owners is invaluable, one thing that holds people back from going to a doctor or the hospital, is worrying about their pet at home. If you know an elderly person with an animal at home, arranging care for their pet when they are ill is one of the nicest things you can do for them.
So, feeling sad, lonely or unmotivated? Go to your closest animal shelter and pick a grateful new friend who could, quite easily, change your life.
- Westgarth C, Christley RM, Marvin G, Perkins E. I Walk My Dog Because It Makes Me Happy: A Qualitative Study to Understand Why Dogs Motivate Walking and Improved Health. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2017 Aug 19;14(8) PubMed PMID: 28825614