TIME SPENT WITH A PET IS NEVER WASTED
I have always had pets in my life, my first was a hamster, Hammy (très original!), we had fish, cats and dogs in the family home and my husband and I now share our home with three generations of bizarre French Bulldog. My dogs are my world, always happy to see me, always loving and never judgemental… Just pure unconditional love.
When I’m older and living my bespoke West Country dream, I aspire to be the eccentric yet graceful ‘dog-lady’ with far too many dogs and a French Bulldog rescue centre to boot! Through my own experience and publically available research, I strongly believe that owning and taking care of pets has many therapeutic benefits and is something which genuinely makes you happier and healthier.
Professionally trained assistance animals such as guide dogs for the blind offer obvious benefits to humans. However, the average domestic pet, such as a dog, cat, even a goldfish can also provide many benefits, whether that’s easing loneliness, reducing stress, promoting social interaction, encouraging exercise and playfulness, or simply providing us with affection and love.
While I am clear about the immediate joys that come with sharing my life with a pack of Frenchies, many remain unaware of the longer term physical and mental health benefits that accompany the pleasure of snuggling up to a four-legged friend. It’s only recently that studies have begun to scientifically explore the benefits of this human-animal bond.
Studies have found that pet owners are less likely to suffer from depression than those without pets, people with pets have lower blood pressure in stressful situations than those without and playing with a pet can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine, which in turn, calm and relax.
Also worth mentioning is that pet owners have lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels (indicators of heart disease) than those without pets. Heart attack patients with pets survive longer than those without and pet owners over age 65 make 30% fewer visits to their doctors than those without a pet at home. A pet doesn’t have to be a dog or a cat; even watching fish in an aquarium can help reduce muscle tension and pulse rate.
One of the reasons behind these therapeutic effects is that most pets fulfil the basic human need to touch. Even hardened criminals in prison have shown long-term changes in their behaviour after interacting with pets, many of them experiencing mutual affection for the first time. Stroking, holding or cuddling a loving animal can rapidly calm and soothe when we’re stressed. The companionship of a pet can also ease loneliness, and although not often in the case of a meandering, lazy and stubborn French Bulldog breed, some pets are a great stimulus for healthy and intense exercise, which can substantially boost mood.
Having a pet adds structure and routine to your day given that many pets, especially dogs, require a regular feeding and exercise schedule. Whatever your mood be it depressed, anxious, or stressed; you will always have to get out of bed to feed, exercise, and care for your pet.
Pets can also play an important role in healthy ageing by helping the elderly find meaning and joy in life. As people age, they inevitably lose things that previously occupied their time and gave their lives purpose. Maybe they retired from their career or their children moved far away. Caring for a pet can bring pleasure and help to boost morale and optimism. Taking care of an animal can also provide a sense of self-worth and help people to stay connected. Maintaining a social network isn’t always easy as people grow older and making new friends can become harder. Retirement, illness, death and relocation can take away close friends and family members. Dogs especially are a great way for the elderly to spark up conversations and meet new people. People can overcome many of the physical challenges associated with ageing by taking good care of themselves but pets encourage playfulness, laughter, and exercise, which can help boost immune systems and increase energy.
So all of these things lead us to the conclusion that it is good to care for a pet. I cannot and will not ever understand why some people inflict so much pain and cruelty to animals. They have so much to offer us, they will unconditionally love us and they bring out the best in us. If people can’t be nice and show a basic level of respect towards others and animals then truthfully, they shouldn’t be around a pet, an animal and in most cases, even the general public.
Love your pet like it loves you, enjoy all of the benefits it has to offer and remember; a pet is for life and like you, it deserves to have the best life you can give it.
If you would like to check out our French Bulldogs in action, visit their twitter page @the_weasels …ALL who respect life, be it human or animal are welcome to join their virtual pack!
“We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals”