A sign hangs on my wall: “My Therapist Has a Wet Nose.” I bought the sign at a pet supply store a few years ago, and the saying is certainly true – in my house and in many other homes. My animals make great therapists – many pets do.
Research shows pets provide great health benefits to people. They can reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and add years to our life. Experts tell us that pets help people who suffer from depression. The simple fact that our pets accept us for who we are, they love us unconditionally and are devoted companion, often waiting by the door for our return, makes us smile and builds our confidence and self-esteem. Dogs get us outdoors for fresh air and walks, and cats curl up in our laps and purr. All of these things and more are healthy benefits to people, both emotionally and physically.
People in nursing homes, hospitals, and hospice often feel weak, are in pain, and get discouraged. Many are lonely. Therapy pets raise their spirits, bringing smiles and joy into situations that can be sad and scary. Pet Partners, formally the Delta Society, and other groups certify pets and their owners for visiting these and other public places and studies show these animals provide great benefits to those whom they visit.
Although many people think of dogs when they envision pet therapy, dogs are not the only animals used for such work. Other animals, too, can be and are used in therapy situations; cats, bunnies, guinea pigs, even horses offer therapeutic value in various circumstances.
Unlike people with whom relationships can be complex, unpredictable, and stressful, animals are a great source of stability and companionship. Having a pet in one’s home can be calming and offer comfort when one is ill. Animals don’t change, and their loyalty to their owners and their ability to rebound from tough situations can be inspiring. The simple act of petting a dog or cat can lower blood pressure and bring a sense of calm to one’s spirit. Interacting with that pet in a playful manner can generate enjoyment and laughter. Even watching fish in a beautiful tank can bring about a sense of peace and an enjoyment of splendor through the colors of both the fish and the tank. And, don’t we all need a bit more tranquility, stability, and ability in our lives?
Pets are also a great source of comfort, especially for those affected by natural and other disasters. The K-9 Comfort Dogs from Lutheran Church Charities travel America to help quell the squall people experience after tornadoes, bombings, and other tragedies. Hugging a dog and allowing it to lick away tears of grief, fear, and anxiety brings comfort, and that's the job of the Lutheran Church Charities K-9 Comfort Dogs – and many other such animal-human programs.
No matter what we’re experiencing, we find love, devotion, acceptance and comfort from the furry friends around us … and we can share that special beauty with others by being partners with our pets in helping those in our community and our country through therapy and comfort animal programs.
Have you hugged your pet today? Do so, and put some special pet therapy in your day!
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.