Pets rock! Easy for me to say now, but a few years ago I didn’t feel that way. I saw them as more of a burden, something you had to clean up after and spend a lot of money on. But then we got Phoebe, our truly wonderful Shepherd/Doberman mix dog. All I can say is that the circumstances under which we got him made me think it was truly a God thing. He came into our lives at just the right time. He was great with the kids and so much fun. Probably one of hardest things we’ve had to do as a family was putting him down when he became very sick. It took a few years to get past it before we were open to having another pet. But I’m glad we eventually got there, because we are so blessed to have Grizzly, our larger than life thirteen-pound Bichon/Poodle, probably the most loved dog on the planet (thanks in large part to my four kids.)
If you’ve read many of my blogs, you know that reducing stress, simplifying your life, and focusing on what really matters are common themes discussed. What I have learned is that pets can play an integral role in contributing to the overall wellbeing of a family. It may sound crazy to say, but pets improve our lives. Here’s what I mean…
It may surprise you to hear that pets actually reduce the severity of many common health problems. To begin with, they can lower your blood pressure and reduce your cardiovascular stress. In fact, it’s been reported that even people who’ve experienced a stroke or heart attack recover more quickly if they have a pet. This is in part because pet owners are more physically active than those without pets.
Studies find that some people are put more at ease by being around animals than being with their closest family members (probably not a good thing to bring up at Thanksgiving.) Perhaps this is because pets don’t need to talk, and their wants are pretty simple. Pets remind us to simply enjoy being in the moment. Pets also help our emotional health by giving us purpose, because our pets depend on us to meet their needs – we feed them, take them out, keep their living space clean, and interact with them. Some people just appreciate the fact that they are needed.
Children benefit from pets, as well. Kids with pets tend to be more confident, perhaps because taking care of something more helpless than themselves develops feelings of competence. There’s data to indicate that pets help kids socialize by giving them something interesting to talk about. And here’s an interesting piece of trivia: a study found that when five-year-olds are scared, angry, or lonely, more than 40% of them turn to pets for comfort.
And there are direct health benefits for kids, too. Kids with a pet or two are less likely to have allergies and asthma. Obviously, this can swing the other way if you have too many pets or certain type of pets. But in general, having a pet or even hanging around a barn now and then can be good for your kids.
Finally, pets are a great excuse to do things as a family. Walking the dog? Why not take everyone? Same goes for tossing a ball or waving a wand toy for the cat. Even teens that aren’t terribly playful will let their guard down to goof around with a pet, so if you’re struggling to get your adolescents to interact, a furry family member may be the solution.
Remember that getting your next pet doesn’t mean you have to drop a small fortune. There are many great animals out there that, through no fault of their own, are without a home. Some of our best pets came from an animal shelter. Who knows? You may find your new best friend.
Your Virtual Life Mentor,