Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Health Benefits of Having a Pet

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

I ran across an article on the internet yesterday that trumpeted the health benefits of owning a pet - or, as so often was my personal experience, being owned by a pet.  The author stated that having pets around can help with allergies, lower cholesterol, improve heart functioning, and keep their owners fit.  Some of that is easy to understand.  Walking the dog for an hour or two a day has got to be better for a person's health than sitting mindlessly in front of the television or the computer.  That regular exercise for the humans would necessarily help to keep them fit, probably be good for the hearts of average people, and certainly help with lowering cholesterol in most cases.  All of that taken together would have the added benefit of lowering healthcare costs because, if you need to go to the doctor less often, you pay less.

But the author went further and implied that there were mental health benefits to pet ownership as well.   She noted that pets tend to relax their owners and make them smile more.  Their love is unconditional.

As someone who works in the mental health field, I strongly suspect that is where pets have the greatest impact on the well-being of their owners.  It has been known for years that the elderly, especially those who live alone, become more animated and focused when they have a pet to care for.  That same principle works for the young and lonely as well.   When I am dealing with someone who is lonely and depressed, we always work the conversation around to the possibility of getting a pet.

We name our pets, talk to them, worry about them, scold and reward them, and generally personify them to the point that we believe our communication with them is reciprocated.  Smart pets lets us know when they are hungry, need to go outside, or want play.  They warn us when there is trouble,  and cozy up to us when we need some comfort.

I guess I'm missing Emme Ears, Paladin and Paloma, and even Scroungy Bastard.  Pets  are a lot of work and responsibility, but they pay their owners back in love a hundred-fold...and they keep you healthy!


Xobekim said...

Speaking of Scroungy Bastard, how did that story end?

Reed said...

Man I miss Paladin. He was my buddy. He would always throw those gigantic paws up on my shoulders when I would show up at your house...I do not miss the Emus.

Pa Rock's Ramble said...

Scroungy Bastard is living with my former neighbors and still has the run of the Wheezin' Geezer Trailer Park. All reports have been positive. I understand that he even gets to lick the neighbor's ice cream bowl clean each evening!