Every day we search for methods on how to reduce stress, anxiety, tension or how we can become more physically fit. There are always the typical solutions like journaling, yoga, dieting and meditation; however, these solutions often come along with unrealistic expectations and goals and therefore are often short lived and actually end up doing the opposite of what we intended from our so-called good intentions.
With aging parents and grown children, many of us fit into a group of empty- nesters struggling for balance and looking for solutions to simplify and enrich our lives and improve our overall health and well- being. Many of us feel somewhat lonely, lost and trying to reconnect with a different reality in times of transition. There are many solutions out there that we try, but there is one that many of us do not even consider or think about: Pet Ownership.
Although, a lot of consideration and thought must go into the decision whether to become a pet owner, it may be definitely beneficial to consider a new kind of friend, the furry kind, to provide social support, companionship, and stress relief along with emotional and physical health benefits.
Many of us own pets because we simply love being around our furry friends without even considering all of the added therapeutic value. In fact, the perks of owning a pet are abundant:
MENTAL AND PHYSICAL HEALTH BENEFITS
Pet therapy has gained a lot of recognition and popularity in recent years because of the fact that pets can positively influence both our physical and mental health. There are a number of very successful pet therapy programs implemented in both children’s hospitals and nursing homes around the country because it has been proven that pet therapy REALLY works.
Owning a pet will help us lead a more fulfilling, healthy and active life. Regular walking and playing ball with a dog gives our cardiovascular system an excellent workout and a healthy energy boost. As a result, we will see improvements in our cholesterol, blood pressure, weight control or reduction and heart rate. Owning a pet, especially for people over 40, tends to reduce the number of doctor visits as well as the use of prescription drugs.
Another big benefit that comes from owning a pet is that mood swings are lessened and stress is reduced, since pets are full of unconditional love and definitely great listeners who do not interrupt, talk back or take sides and always available to snuggle when needed. Many mental health issues or aliments are related to negative feelings, ideas, attitudes and mindsets. Pets offer companionship, laughter, comfort, joy and support; they can often be there for us when people can’t, to offer the kind of love and friendship we need in times of change or loss when our usual habit is to isolate and feel incredibly lonely. Pets have a way of changing our mindset, encouraging us to move; acting as moral spirit boosters in even the most troubling of times.
SOCIAL AND EVERYDAY LIVING IMPROVEMENTS
For those of us baby boomers who have children, we often find ourselves, at this stage of the game, coming home to empty houses and feeling that it just does not seem right; a feeling that something is missing. Suddenly, a house that used to be filled with children is suddenly very quiet and many of us do not know how to replace that social interaction that was once dominated by preparing for rushing off to the weekly hockey practices or swim meets. We were once used to being responsible for making appointments, reviewing homework, driving to sports, preparing meals and being the parent that our children depended upon most. Many of us miss that time along with the responsibility and /or the busyness associated with set activities.
For those of us who never had children, with our school days long gone and most days dominated by work restrictions, we find ourselves even less social and feeling the desire to meet and interact with people. Those of us, who never married, a product of a sudden divorce or separation or dealing with aging parents, can be facing a time of uncertainty and unfamiliarity which can lead to increased levels of stress, loneliness and poor health. We often do not know how to alleviate worry and just simply rest and relax.
We often think of walking a dog as a chore but walking a dog can increase our rate of interaction with other people, leading to greater feelings of happiness, belonging and well-being. When we are out walking, having a dog can make us more approachable and can be a great conversation starter. Dog ownership gives people a reason to meet, greet, stop and talk thereby increasing our network of new friends and acquaintances and increasing our social powers. Meet-ups and gatherings at local dog parks will take on a life of its own and this “common ground” will help us increase social networks and even provide us with the support and answers to questions we may have with regards to effectively managing our relationships with the new addition to the family.
These daily walks and meetings will give us a new sense of structure in our lives along with new responsibilities. Pets in general, are dependent on us for not only dedication and commitment to exercise but also for food, and health care. Having a pet will undoubtedly instill a structure for those who of us who need or miss it, and will set a steady rhythm to each day. Regular training, feeding and exercise routines will not only make for a happy healthy pet and companion but will make us once again, responsible caregivers.
12 reasons for Pet Ownership
- safeguard against depression and loneliness
- add structure and responsibility
- get regular exercise
- improve social skills; ease out of isolation and shyness
- ease loss and change
- improve mood and reduce stress
- provide companionship and unconditional love
- improve and increase self-esteem
- add happiness and affection
- lower blood pressure
- build healthy and strong immune systems
- improve and strengthen relationships
CLOSER RELATIONSHIP BONDS
Pets can bring families and friends closer together. Whether the activity centers on playing, walking, grooming or cuddling with pet, family members are often pulled closer together. Simple acts like watching a dog roll on his belly, a cat trying to catch its tail or a hamster running feverishly in its wheel creates conversation, laughter and family time; a simple minute or two away from doing something else to giggle at the priceless and unexpected moments that can come from owning a wide variety of pets. Pets are infectious!
In addition to this shared sense of companionship and love, owning a pet can become a shared responsibility as well; assigning pet duties to the youngest right up to the oldest members of the family. Right from the initial decision as to the kind pet to buy, all family members can be stakeholders in the proper raising of the family pet. A RAISE A PET PROJECT can in fact help unify the family unit.
If single, we can create time with friends who have similar pets and even switch pet care duties once in awhile; this will undeniably pull our friendships closer and even be the catalyst for a kind of handy pet-care bartering system. Friends, or people in general, who love their pets often have very special bonds and can often be seen huddling together at one of the local dog parks so that both human and furry friends can get some quality bonding time sharing both information and services.
HELP AND SUPPORT
Although there are many advantages to owning a pet, it is not for everyone. Not everyone is physically, emotionally or financially capable of effectively providing the appropriate care for a pet. It is important to assess your ability to provide the care a pet requires before becoming an owner. Pets do come with additional responsibility. There are many types of pets and it is important to have the right “fit” because responsible dog ownership is a commitment of up to 15 years and cats for even longer.
PET OWNERSHIP CHECKLIST
How much time can I devote to a pet?
How much exercise and attention will my pet need?
How much money every month can I afford to spend on my pet?
Do I have support to help me with my pet?
Do I live with people who support my decision to have a pet?
Have I done the appropriate research to determine which pet is best for me and what its needs will be?
Do I live with responsible and caring individuals?
Does anyone in the home have pre-existing allergies?
How many hours of the day am I away from the house?
Do I have physical limitations that would affect my ability to care for this animal?
How committed will I be to keeping my pet if I have to deal with life events i.e. moving away?
Do I know anyone else with this species/breed of animals who will give me help and advice?
We have come a long way and as important as it is to recognize limitations, it is also important to recognize that there are now many conveniences, available to pet owners, ranging from pet friendly hotels and coffee shops to pet sitters, daycares and spas. We now have travelling groomers, veterinarians and trainers to make life easier; ensuring that owners have all the resources necessary. Checking the montrealdogblog regularly ( as well as our Facebook page) will give you all kinds of information that no pet owner or potential pet owner should go without.
As a proud, loving and responsible owner/ and foster of rescued dogs, I can simply say that being greeted by them everyday is the part of my daily routine that I look forward to the most!