Long ago and far away, men took to feeding the wolves that came around their camps looking for food or warmth. The wolves provided company and even some protection in the night. Over time, the wolves became more comfortable with man, and vice versa.
We began to breed the tamer wolves, and so began the fine-tuning of Man’s (or Woman’s) Best Friend — the modern-day dog.
Maybe you’re more of a feline fan, but regardless of which type of four-legged creatures you invite into your home, research shows that it’s a good idea to have a furry friend (or four).
Why, you ask?
According to the Animal Behavior Institute:
“Research has validated what every pet owner already knows: interactions with animals can reduce our stress levels and increase our sense of well being. Anxiety melts away as we stroke our cat or play with the dog. Animals create enormous motivation in people of all ages and can be an integral component in the success of treatments and educational programs.”
My husband brings our lucky dog to work nearly every day. He’s told me stories of leaving his desk, only to return to a big burly contractor laying on the floor petting Dexter, saying he needed to relieve some stress.
How often do you see funny or motivational posters — or even imgur or reddit posts — where pets are doing something cute or silly? Why are pets better at delivering motivational or inspirational messages to us? Why are they so good at making us laugh? Is the answer universal or do pets affect each human uniquely?
Pets do silly, hilarious things, and when you have a good one that you really love, you tend to appreciate all animals both in their innocence and in each of their little “personalities.”
As we talked about in an earlier post, on gratitude, just that sense of appreciation does us some good. We open our hearts a little bit more, and in those feelings of openness, gratitude, appreciation, and love for a pet, we can actually soften our approach to our own lives and the world around us. And that, I can promise you, will do wonders for your stress levels and resiliency.
Sure, that feeling can be fleeting, but that’s why having someone at home to pet and cuddle with, to take care of, and who depends on you, is so helpful.
Animal’s have been used in therapeutic settings, including hospitals, nursing homes, and psychiatric clinics. You can learn more about Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) here.
According to the American Humane Society, animals can be helpful in motivating nursing home patients with dementia to be both mentally and physically more sharp and healthy. “Animals provide a sense of meaning and belonging to these patients and offer something to look forward to during their long days.” (source)
If you have a pet at home, carve out some time this weekend to spend some quality time with him or her. Take your dog to the park or cuddle up on the couch with your cat. If you don’t have a pet, find a friend who does, or visit a nearby animal shelter and find a furry friend to spend some time with (be careful! you might want to take one home!)