Before you rush off into choosing a pooch, just think of all the freedom you have at this very moment in time. Binge watching 10 episodes of House of Cards over the weekend? Not a problem. You don’t have to be back at work for another 36 hours anyway. If you had a dog, rest assured there would be mandatory intermissions in which you have to be somewhat decent - saiyara pizza-stained sweatpants. You need to be presentable in order to clean up your pup’s dinner from last night.
Five ways to keep your pup happy and healthy, even when times get “ruff”: Inspired by Claudia and Mac
At just over a year old, Mac is an adorable Toy Maltese who loves people, playtime and pulling apart his toys. In his free-time he likes to snuggle and play fetch with tiny tennis balls. On top of that, he will always appreciate a carrot when it’s time for a treat!
I am a cat person. Of course, not in the way that I don’t like dogs, because I LOVE dogs, but in the way that cats might need a special kind of person to really understand them: someone who is a little more patient with mood swings and knows how to be gentle, someone who likes to cuddle during cat naps but also totally understands when you need some alone time. Admittedly, yes, I am that person. I love all cats, and if they don’t want to be my friend when I meet them, I’d just about die trying to change their mind.
I’ve grown up with cats, me and my sister getting our first baby kittens when I was just about five years old. When we first went to pick out our little kittens I thought there could never be a better feeling in the world than holding such an innocent ball of fluffy love. How could anything be so cute? But this was only the beginning.
Years later, sadly after the passing of my first cat, I decided it was time to move on. In her honor, I decided that I was going to save a life. I knew that there were (and still are) millions of poor, traumatized, forgotten kitties, sitting in shelters just waiting for the right person to pick them up and take them home. So, when the time finally came that I was ready for a new friend to enter my life, I drove down to a local shelter.
I must have entered somewhat skeptically, not knowing what to expect and not ready for the massive array of homeless animals I was about to encounter. I must admit that the effect is overwhelming, seeing so many beautiful pets with endless love in their eyes. It seems impossible not to take each and every one of them home! But as I make my way around the shelter, my eyes fall on a gorgeous Himalayan cat. He’s young, about a year old, long hair swirled in a beautiful mix of light and dark grey, and the most piercing blue eyes I’d ever seen. The moment I saw him, I knew.
When I made it clear to the shelter’s staff that I was interested, they let me take him out and hold him. Now, to be honest, he was terrified. He did not take to me immediately, seeming skittish and clearly uncomfortable with human contact. When holding him I could feel he was shaking through his dirty, matted hair and when I felt his ribs through his stomach, I could tell he wasn’t eating correctly. But rather than let these somber elements deter me from my path, I told myself that this little guy was in need… in need of a safe home, a loving family and a best friend. I wanted more than anything in the world to be that person for him.
So, I proceeded to signing the papers. They hand off his information to me, making sure I’m going to keep him up to date with shots and vet visits, all before putting him in a small carrier case to take home. As I stepped out of the shelter that day, my heart was soaring. The sky would have been blue to me even if a hurricane was brewing. I happily drove home with my new buddy, blood jumping, ecstatic about being able to introduce him to his new home.
Hours later, I found myself laying on my living room floor, still waiting for poor, scared Aspen to come out of his box. He must have been traumatized at his past home, I thought to myself. I’ve got to do something to make this easier! So I brought the box up to my room, a sort of safe haven, and just started talking to him. I wanted him to know my voice and know that I was there to help him, love him and protect him from outside evils. When he finally came out, he sat in my lap for hours, just taking in the fresh dose of love he was being offered, only running under my bed when I had to leave him.
The process continued as such for about a month: me laying on the floor with him, occasionally kicking over the food and water bowls across the floor, startling him to the point where he would retreat back under the bed, and I would sit and wait for our next encounter. Although, little by little, we were making progress. I brushed the mats out of his hair and cleaned him, he started gaining weight and becoming more comfortable with me.
Then suddenly one day, I came home to find Aspen exploring the downstairs living room, sniffing the pillows, picking out the comfiest spots to enjoy his nap time. When I looked at him, shocked and surprised, he merely cocked his head at me, as if to say “What? I’ve belonged here all along, haven’t I?”
Ever since that day, Aspen has not only been my best friend, but a friend to all that approach him. He loves people and being played with. He never bites, scratches or rejects the love he is offered. He is happy and playful, patient and even caring! He will sit by my side on the darkest of days, comforting me with his cuddly aptitude and wide eyes.
I can’t imagine what my life would be like had I not gone to the shelter that day. I am proud to say that I was able to take on the responsibility of changing Aspen’s life, and he has more than courteously returned the favor.
For many families, the first thirty days of October are merely a countdown to the big event… Halloween of course!! The thrill of October comes with a mix of ghosts and ghouls, spiders and scary movies, tricks, and treats of the like until it finally comes down to the big day. People of all ages enjoy preparing with pumpkin carvings, spunky decorations and putting together elaborate costumes.
“If having a soul means being able to feel love and loyalty and gratitude, then animals are better off than a lot of humans.” – James Herriot
For pet owners all over the world, the words of James Herriot ring inevitably true. It is often hard to find a human to match the ultimate love and loyalty of your furry friends, solely because of their simplistic and unconditional efforts to always be there for you. Not to say that there aren’t plenty of fantastic human beings out there, it is just that we have developed this special relationship with our pets: a pure bond that can somehow silence all evil. Dogs aren’t labeled as mans best friend for nothing!
But how did this happen? What is it that makes us connect with pets so brilliantly? Why do they make us so happy?
Well… it is no secret that having a pet is a significant source of emotional support. This applies to the majority of what we would call “everyday” people, as well as those with serious mental health disorders. Our animals can be just as close to our hearts as those family members or friends that we love most. Having a support system through a pet can make a big change in anyone’s life, considering that you will have someone always by your side, someone who can brighten your day even in the darkest of times.
Psychologists at the University of Miami and Saint Louis University conducted a couple of studies in which strong results were found that favored pet owners as generally happier and healthier people. Researchers concluded that, based on survey data, being a pet owner can be a huge upgrade to one’s quality of life. “Specifically, pet owners had greater self-esteem, were more physically fit, tended to be less lonely, were more conscientious, were more extroverted, tended to be less fearful and tended to be less preoccupied than non-owners,” said lead researcher Allen R. McConnell, PhD, of Miami University in Ohio. I believe most people would attest to this result, claiming that their pets have made them stronger people overall, with more genuine qualities and a brighter outlook on daily life. (This study was published online by the American Psychological Association and reported in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.)
In a second section of their study, they surveyed a large group of undergraduates to find that having a pet can help many young owners feel exceptionally less downtrodden after being faced with rejection. “The present work presents considerable evidence that pets benefit the lives of their owners, both psychologically and physically, by serving as an important source of social support,” the researchers wrote.
Furthermore, animal to human contact can be especially helpful for college students. It is becoming more popular for colleges and universities to bring in therapy dogs for their students to interact with when it comes time to take finals at the end of the semester. According to the National Center for Health Research, in a 2002 study, researchers found a correlation between a student’s test performance and having a pet in the room, based on lowered heart rates and blood pressure. “These findings indicated that having a dog or cat lowered the risk of heart disease, as well as lowering stress so that performance improved,” they concluded. To think that merely a supporting pet in the student’s testing area can drastically affect their ability to test well is…incredible! This idea even goes further than college students. Children of all ages have shown to have a decrease in anxiety when in contact with their pets.
The National Institute of Health seems to be in agreement that pet interaction has a multitude of beneficial effects, considerably in therapy situations for those with any range of mental disorder. “Banks and Banks (2002, 2005) showed in two controlled studies with patients in long-term care facilities that animal visitation programs reduced feelings of loneliness,” they concluded, as recorded online with the NCBI (National Center for Biotechnology Information). They continue to show findings that pet therapy has been able to reduce depression rates in animal therapy patients and improve mood balances for children and adults alike. “Children with psychiatric disorders showed better intra-emotional balance after only a single therapy session with a dog (Prothmann et al.,2006).” In summary, their list of positive outcomes for animal contact, to people with and without mental or medical conditions, is enticing and overwhelming in the best way possible. The list includes: “improvement of social attention, behavior, interpersonal interaction, and mood; reduction of self-reported fear and anxiety; reduced aggression; improved learning…” and more.
As innumerable new studies are executed, supporting the results that all people can benefit from having a pet of their own, I would expect that society itself would be in favor of the increased level of happiness, comfort and compatibility between each other. Who knew that it was our pets all along that help make the world go round? So why wait… become a part of the movement today!
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