Benefits of Pets

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Is this the right time to adopt a puppy?


We lost our fur baby over three years ago. Our third pet had crossed over the rainbow bridge. After each heartbreaking loss, it took us years until we felt ready to open our lives and our hearts to another pet.


When making this important, life changing decision, many of us first consider the work and cost involved. Do we have the time to train, feed, and care for a new puppy? Will we have the time and energy to bathe it, clean its teeth, and play with it? If we work full time, will our pet be safe on its own for the many hours while we are away? Is that fair to the dog? What about the mess and noise, i.e. accidents until it is trained, chewing on our shoes or furniture, and barking each time someone comes to our front door. If we live in condos or apartments, will the dog bark while we are away and annoy our neighbours?


Still thinking about it? If so, where should we purchase our pet? A breeder could be a great choice, but the cost of a purebred might be thousands of dollars and inbred pets may come with genetic predispositions to serious health conditions. Alternatively, purchasing an animal from a pet store is usually a bad idea. They often come from puppy mills and could have serious health and behavioural issues due to the cruel conditions into which they were born.


Instead, there are many pets ready and available to be rescued. Adopting a pet from a shelter may be saving it from being euthanized. Our first dog was referred to as a “mutt” and purchased from the Toronto Humane Society. She gave us 15 years of love, affection, fun, and was a great friend and caregiver for our newborn baby girl. I was eight months pregnant when my husband walked in proudly offering me this adorable puppy. How he thought that his wife who had swollen feet and had gained 50 pounds could take care of a dog and, at the same time, prepare for the birth of our baby, was beyond me. Muffy was a combination Beagle and German Sheppard. She loved to escape whenever the front door opened, and her escapades ended in more surgeries than most people experience in a lifetime. But she was pure love. Muffy became our daughter’s best friend, slept in her room, and is probably the primary reason that our daughter, Suzie, is a Veterinarian today.


The cost of an adopted pet is minimal. Many rescue animals have already been trained and have gone through the puppy stage so may be calmer. Alternatively, we will probably know nothing about its medical or behavioural history. That being said, we may have a particular breed, colour, and/or age preference in mind which may make our perfect companion even more difficult to find.


Yes, there is a great deal involved in caring for a pet but what can our pets do for us?


According to the Harvard Health Letter, “pets are wonderful companions and provide many emotional and physical benefits.”


Dr. Fricchione, director of Mind Body Medicine, discussed a study in the journal Science about how oxytocin, a good feeling chemical, is boosted in both the dog and the human when a dog owner stares into the eyes of his dog, referred to as “mutual gazing”.


A 2014 Study, published in the journal of Pediatric Nursing, stated that “children with autism may especially benefit from interacting with dogs which can provide unconditional, non-judgemental, love and companionship.” For many of these kids, a therapy dog can decrease meltdowns, anxiety, and anger. The child’s furry pal can teach him responsibility and comfort him when he feels afraid, overwhelmed, or insecure.


One of the main causes of depression for human beings is loneliness. Pets help us feel less alone. They have no expectations while offering us love, hugs and kisses. They are always ready to play, and are happy just to lie next to us as we sleep, read, or watch TV.


For the elderly, a pet is great company, can reduce stress, lower blood pressure, get his owner out of the house through daily walks, and has a miraculous effect on reducing depression and anxiety.


It has also been said that having a pet helps seniors focus on something other than themselves; ie, their physical challenges and preoccupations with loss or aging. Adopting an older pet that is already trained may be the best solution for seniors. An important consideration is if they are physically, emotionally, and financially able to care for a pet.


During the COVID pandemic, the number of pets adopted increased exponentially. Rescue shelters did not have enough animals to fill the demands of people looking to find a pet for their children stuck at home without their friends and for adults living alone who were seeking company and emotional support.  Unfortunately, these animals could not be taken out for walks due to government restrictions, couldn’t go to training classes, and got used to having their owners at home with them 24/7. They became used to constant love and attention and weren’t accustomed to staying home alone.


As many of these families returned to work and to school, they were no longer able to care for their pets, physically and/or financially. Shelters became concerned about “the possibility that animals would come flooding back when people returned to work and that these animals would suffer from separation anxiety.” Also Veterinary Clinics, particularly those in small towns, had difficulty accommodating the number of pets that required medical care. Pet owners had to wait for days and even weeks to get appointments. Many turned to Emergency Clinics but the costs were much higher and they experienced long waits because the ER Vets had to treat the more serious cases first.


Yes, purchasing a pet is a decision that should be considered carefully. For most of us, the benefits outweigh the costs. As the proud “mom” of three dogs, over the past 50 years; each with us for over 15 years, I can honestly say that these dogs were our babies. They brought great joy and love to our home and to our family. During times of illness and loss, they provided support. Each of them seemed able to sense whenever something was wrong and provided us with exactly what we needed. I miss them all terribly but am grateful to have had them as part of our lives. True blessings, their memories will forever remain in our hearts!


So, back to my initial question. Am I ready? Is this the right time? All I have to do is look into those big brown eyes, feel it snuggle against me, enjoy the kisses, and breath in the love, and, somehow, all of my questions and concerns disappear.

Gilda Rovan Bio - Nutritional Preceptorship Program


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