Health & Wellbeing

The Power of Pets – Helping Us When We Need It Most

There’s nothing quite de-stressing then the love of ones pet. Charlotte Lloyd looks at how these animals pick up our spirits at the end of a long hard day.

You come home after a long day at work. You’re struggling to get up the few stairs that lead to the doorway. You see your family, entirely glued to their task – whether that be scrolling on social media, cooking dinner, or doing paperwork that looks like it could all go on forever – all in their own little bubbles. But the one who notices you, the one who lifts their head and lifts their mood when they see you is your pet. I won’t deny that while I am writing this piece, I can’t help but think of my little and not-so-young dog that has stuck by me and my family for 15 years (I know, crazy, right?). But despite the fact that I am not a cat person, a lot of people look to their pets (dog or other) for support, when the demand of uni or work just seems too much – sometimes they’re the best friend we can have in tough situations. There are many benefits of pets and while I feel I and some others might be quite biased in which pet we take a liking to, the joy of having a dog, a cat, a horse, or even a pet lizard can make us feel closer, safer, less stressed, healthy (WHAT!!!), loved, and give us some companionship.

Now if you’ve ever been to the Olive Tree Markets in Civic Park, it somehow attracts the cutest dogs in Newcastle. And as I sit beside my close friend who is scared of dogs, I point out each and every one while she can’t help but have an obvious ‘please don’t walk near me face.’ Nevertheless, pets offer us some things that you just can’t get from even your closest friends. And one of the best things is that they offer to listen to your problems without talking back (how good is that!) as we just assume that they are agreeing with everything we say. Pets are so perfect that dogs and other animals are also used as therapy, both for the elderly who are in need of some companionship, and also in careers where placid animals are offered as an escape from stress-inducing jobs, such as emergency call-centers and health care workers and patients.

The fact that a lot (if not all) pets (as well as ourselves) need some form of regular exercise, shows that by owning pets we can become healthier. Taking a pet for a stroll, a run, or even a scenic bushwalk is a rewarding way to stay healthy both for yourself and your pet. Making sure they are being kept in the best possible shape is unconsciously doing the same for you. Research has shown that by having a pet, individuals are much more likely to meet their exercise requirements when owning a pet. And while my 15-year-old dog isn’t the best for taking on a run now, in her hey-day she was great. I mean, she is 105 (in dog years), after all. And imagine galloping around on a horse – that would definitely meet your daily exercise!

Uni is stressful – there is no doubt in that – and the anxiety that peaks much higher around exam time is no joke. The cramming of assessments the night before and the lead up to a 50% weighted exam is undoubtedly one of the most stressful things to date (for now). However, an increase in anxiety means an increase in health problems, and I don’t know about you, but I would like to avoid that as best I can. Luckily, pets help us relax, like after a long day’s work. Having a pet pal decreases unhealthy symptoms of high cholesterol, lower blood pressure, etc. So, by having a furry friend (or even not-so-furry friend), we are more inclined to be healthy both physically (which we all want), and mentally (which we all need).

Companionship, especially at an older age, can help prevent illness and can give individuals more ‘life’ within themselves. While, without a pet, symptoms like depression and often a sense of isolation start to become a reality. For both the elderly and the young, having a pet to care for can make us feel wanted and give us a responsibility. If you’ve ever seen the show ‘After Life,’ after his wife dies, Tony has the responsibility to care for the dog they had together, and while it doesn’t cure his depression, it gives him something to live for if nothing else. Talking your problems through with your pets, as said above, can make us feel less alone in the world and although Ebony, my cocker spaniel cross poodle, has lost the ability to hear her name called even if you’re staring at her right in the face, I like to believe she understands what I’m saying when I tell her about my day. And nothing can give us more joy than walking through the door after a long day at work and hearing a purr of a cat or that ferocious wagging tail of your dog.

There are also those animals that hold a duty, working for people who need them. Such as dogs trained as K9’s in the police force, dogs trained as guide dogs, as well as therapy dogs used in high-stress careers, for terminally-ill patients and those working in those sectors. And also, for companionship for individuals who have lost a partner or maybe of an older age. I commend these animals, because if they provide even the smallest amount of relief for people in these situations, than they have succeeded.

So, whether you love a furry pal, go for a more reclusive friend, or even if you haven’t grown up with a pet by your side, they are well worth it. And while we can’t have a pet on campus at uni, I sure wish I could sneak a puppy in, if only for a day (I live for those days when the petting zoo comes to college). Nonetheless, pets hold a special place in my heart, and they have so many benefits that are not only for you but for them too. I just hope that one day when you walk through the door after a long day at work, you can feel that sense of elation that beams off you face as it does theirs when they see you.

Feature Image: Phoebe Metcalfe – Yak Media Designer

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