This weekend my family dog, Pepper, who stayed with my parents after I moved out, has run into some health challenges. We are hopeful that we can find a treatment that will help her (she is 10 years old and still has a lot of life left in her), but we are also conscious that we cannot let her suffer. While the situation with Pepper has my family and I worried, it has also has me thinking about the healing power of animals.
Anyone with a companion animal knows that they can perk up your mood, but being around animals has been found to have all sorts of health benefits, particularly in reducing stress and anxiety. I don’t think anyone (even the best therapist) can listen like an animal. They love unconditionally and never judge. There are more and more programs popping up in the city and around that country that involve the use of animals. This year the University of Saskatchewan had therapy dogs available to the students around exam times. One Arrow Reserve has had great success with their Equine Assisted Learning Program. The program has increased the confidence and trust in both youth and adults as they learn and develop the skills to effectively work with horses. Service dogs have become a recognized treatment to help individuals diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) regain control of their life.
You don’t have to own an animal to benefit from their company. Interacting with a friend’s pet, volunteering with an animal group, or looking up local events that include therapy animals all offer benefits. While most research regarding the health benefits has been done on dogs and horses, I would speculate that all animals can have the same effect – find an animal pal that works for you!
**Since this is being posted right near the holiday season, I want to make a side note that animals do not make good Christmas presents. Owning an animal takes dedication, commitment and can add financial stress. They shouldn’t be brought into a family without some serious thought. If you and your family have been planning on getting a family pet and Christmas feels like the time to introduce them, that’s a different story. Just remember animals aren’t returnable the same way that sweater from Aunt Myrtle is.