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By Wendy Mednick

The Power Of Pets In Our Lives

“Animals are such agreeable friends-they ask no question, they pass no criticisms.”

George Elliot, British Author

There is nothing like the unconditional love of a pet. They show you affection, give you a sense of purpose, and greet you everyday when you come home. There is a kind of magic that pets bring to our lives. Many believe having an animal in your life makes you a better human being. Animals do not pass judgement about physical appearances, or abilities, they do not care about what you do for a living, or how big your house is. Animals care about your capacity to love and the quality of your character. Many believe that pets have more love and compassion in them than most humans. Dean Kootz, an American Author stated,” Petting, scratching, and cuddling a dog could be as soothing to the mind and heart as deep meditation and almost as good for the soul as prayer.

This unconditional love of a pet can do more than keep you company. There are many health benefits of owning a pet,both emotional, physical and mental, as well as enhancing social skills, and decreasing a person's risk of a heart attack. Research studies from the past 35 years have proved owning a pet can also lower stress levels and blood pressure, gives social support,companionship,prevents certain illnesses, helps you stay in shape, as well as a lower heart rate. It becomes possible because pets provide their owner with comfort, love and humor,all of which have health benefits. Pets allow their owners to stay active by requiring walks and play time, and over-all care.

The emotional and mental health benefits pets bring to the ownership equation are uplifting. Pets make you smile when you are just feeling a bit down, even those suffering with diagnosed depression can reap these mood lifting benefits. Recent surveys of pet owners stated 74% of these owners reported mental health improvements, and 75% of pet owners reported a friend or family member's mental health improved because of pets in their lives.

Living in today's fast-paced and interconnected world can be tough on our mental health. The technological advances of our phones, the internet and social media makes it such an easy path to connect no matter where you are. Pet ownership helps the fight against these daily stressors that have nothing to do with technology or world events. A study by the “ Human Animal Bond Research Institute” (HABR), calls fighting these daily stressors coupled with pet ownership the “Pet Effect.” The Pet Effect, also known as the Human Animal Bond is the mutually beneficial relationship between people and animals that positively impacts the health and well being of both. Any pet owner will tell you that living with a pet comes with benefits, constant love, affection and companionship. Their statistics also show 98% of pet owners consider their pet to be a member of the family, also stating people in the presence of animals are healthier too.

A study in 2016, explored the role of pets and people managing long term mental problems. It was found that pets provide a sense of security and routine that furnish emotional and social support. Pets prevent us from feeling less isolated from society. Dogs can be a great ice breaker in helping those that deal with social isolation, social anxiety or shyness. They are also great conversation starters and can start simple small talk or even the start of a real social connection. They create a happy and healthy social life. Pet Therapy also known as Animal Associated Therapy,(AAT) is a guided interaction between an individual and a trained animal, and usually involves the animal's owner or care-giver. The object of pet therapy is to help an individual overcome or recover from a health problem, or mental disorder. Dogs and cats are the most common animals used in pet therapy, however there is an array of others that meet the same criteria needed to qualify. The type of animal chosen depends on the therapeutic goals of the individual's treatment plan, what pet the individual prefers, and what their medical care teams believe is the best fit. Pet therapy has numerous benefits for both the animal and the individual interacting with the pet. This therapy interaction between the two, releases endorphins that provide a calming effect for the individual, and can overall help alleviate pain, lower stress levels and improve a person's psychological state. This therapy can help to increase self esteem, improve motor skills, social skills, and encourage social interaction. Pet therapy helps those that struggle with depression happier, thus reducing the depression, more optimistic, and decreasing loneliness.

Pet owners reap benefits throughout the stages of the life cycle. Pets in a family can help the children develop nurturing and empathetic skills, also offering an opportunity for shared love and connection. It allows the children to take on a responsibility, become a care-taker all at the same time. The pet in the family often at times offers a built-in playmate too. For older adult members of the family, especially empty nesters, it can help alleviate feelings of loneliness, and foster companionship. For adolescents and college students pets were found to reduce stress and give them unconditional acceptance during times of self-doubt and insecurity. A Harvard Medical School article states, pets can inspire and teach us mindfulness, the interaction of the animal provides an opportunity to be more mindful, to purposely focus your attention on the present moment. A simple walk with your dog can inspire this. Having nothing to do but walk makes it possible to just be and exist in the present moment.

Josh Billings quotes” A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than you love yourself .” Our pets, defined as a (wo)man's best friend. Why wouldn't they be? They are loyal,devoted, loving,dependable and don't forget cuddly. We all want a best friend or companion with those qualities. Pets affect our overall health, mental, emotional and physical. Animals play an important role in human lives, and we have clearly adopted and loved pets throughout time. There are so many advantages that these pets bring to your life, and another reason to love them as much as you already do!

“ Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole”

Roger Caras, American Activist

Stay Well………Stay Happy

Wendy Mednick was born and raised in Buffalo, NY & holds a BS/MA from SUNYBuffalo/SUCBuffalo. She has 30 plus years experience in sales, project management, business development, as well as being active in the not-for-profit community. She can be reached at WFM662@Gmail.Com