For many people, dealing with life is difficult. Just like a batter in a baseball game, curve balls come our way – we may take a swing and miss. Or, we may stand there, not sure whether we should move the bat at all.
In the United States alone, anxiety, depression, and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) affect millions of people. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are one of the most common illnesses in the United States, affecting 40 million adults. More than 17 million people in the America are affected by depression, and depression is most prevalent in young people and women. Depression and anxiety can go hand-in-hand.
In addition to counseling and medication, there is another help for people affected by anxiety and/or depression. Many studies have shown animals, like dogs and cats, help people dealing with anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. Pets encourage exercise, like walking and playing with toys. The simple act of petting a dog or cat can reduce stress and lift someone’s mood.
Mental health providers see a positive result when patients obtain emotional support animals. These animals help alleviate symptoms of an emotional or mental disability through their companionship and affection. Although not service animals, like guide dogs, ESAs do receive some protections under federal law. Learn more here: https://www.certapet.com/emotional-support-animal/.
Therapy animals visit hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, libraries, schools, and other places, bringing comfort to people during times of crisis or loneliness. For example, the Lutheran Church Charities K9 Comfort Dogs visit places where natural or human-caused tragedies occur and Read-to-the-Dog programs at libraries bring comfort and confidence to children who struggle with reading and socialization. The elderly in nursing homes and assisted living facilities may feel lonely or rejected; therapy animals (which can be cats, rabbits, dogs, even guinea pigs) ease those feelings. People in hospitals may feel anxious or fearful as well as physically ill; a therapy animal can uplift their spirits and put their minds upon something else. Many school districts embrace the use of therapy and/or comfort dogs in public schools as a way to inspire and assist students. The studies which support pets as healers and comforters have impacted the way medical, mental health, and educational professionals view animals, especially dogs and cats.
Lowering stress and blood pressure are some of the benefits of dogs and cats, whether they’re our pets or they are trained as therapy and/or emotional support animals. Animals provide affection and companionship, and they help soothe the soul. They are helpful in human’s healing processes, whether in their own people or within a stranger.
Consumer Advocate offers a wonderful resource and blog post about pets and their ability to help people with mental or physical ailments. You’ll find that here:
If you experience depression or anxiety, or if you are feeling lonely or fearful, consider adding a pet to your home. If you already have one, take more time with your furry friend – you both will enjoy the extra attention and companionship.
How does your pet help you? Leave a comment below.
I was down for the count for a few days – scratchy throat, sinus congestion, and cough. Although I was ill, I found great comfort – in my pets.
Our newly-adopted dog, Jeremiah, stayed by my side as I napped or simply sat in the couch recliner. Mary also remained nearby, and my long-haired tuxedo cat, Murphy, lay on the arm of the couch several times. The comfort I received from their nearness and from petting them is indescribable. Many of you can relate to that. Our pets can be our therapy, no matter if we’re suffering from a physical illness or from emotional turmoil.
Therapy animals provide great comfort to people. Dogs, cats, guinea pigs, even horses and small ponies provide respite for humans in hospitals, hospice, or other settings. Through specific training, these animals are welcomed in more situations and facilities than ever before, as studies show interacting with animals de-stresses people and brings them joy.
Lutheran Church Charities takes these studies seriously, and the organization provides Comfort Dogs to help people impacted by natural or man-made crises. Just this week, some of those golden retrievers were dispatched to Las Vegas to help the city’s residents and visitors after Sunday night’s mass shooting. The LCC Comfort Dogs have also provided therapy for people impacted by other shootings as well as tornadoes and other natural disasters.
As I sat close with my pets this week, I was reminded how important we are to them, and I know how important they are to me. My animals give me love, acceptance, devotion, and comfort in my time of need, and many animals do the same for strangers.
Whether it’s your own pet interacting with you, therapy pets visiting hospital patients, or LCC’s golden retrievers dispatched to hurting communities, animals bring comfort to humans – they are considered by many as angels with paws. I know I am thankful for the comfort of pets, and I imagine many others are too.
Gayle M. Irwin is a writer and public relations professional who volunteers with various animal rescue groups. She enjoys sharing her books and her passion for pets and the environment with others.