Sometimes people save an animal’s life; other times animals save a human life.
At times, the lifesaving act is obvious to everyone, such as when a person takes in a sick cat and gets it the medical care it needs – or when a dog wakes people in a burning home. Other times, the saving is gradual, and can go almost unnoticed.
A 2016 study at the University of Manchester looked at the relationship between pets and people struggling with mental health issues. One person said they felt suicidal, but the thing that made them stop was wondering what their rabbits would do without them.
The feeling of being needed is only one of the positive things animals provide.
Researchers began looking at the mental health benefits of being around animals many years ago. They discovered that stroking a dog or cat lowered blood pressure, slowed the heart rate, relaxed muscle tension, and caused breathing to become more regular. And, there are now many animal-assisted mental health therapy programs.
In addition, interacting with an animal can raise the levels of chemicals in the body that calm the nervous system and reduce stress. People can also feel more wanted, and have a sense of purpose, when they have a pet to care for.
In one study, elderly people were given crickets in a cage to care for. Researchers monitored their mood over eight weeks, and found they were feeling better than people in a control group that wasn’t caring for any living creature.
Because dogs give such enthusiastic greetings, they can make people feel especially needed and loved. Even when you feel you can’t do anything right, your dog believes you’re the most wonderful person in the world.
The main dog in my life is a little Chihuahua called Thibault. He’s been with me for 13 years and he’s helped me through some very difficult days and nights.
When my brother died, he comforted me by cuddling close and reminding me I had to continue doing important things like feeding him and taking him outdoors. When I’ve struggled with depression, he’s been by my side. When humans have thrown hatred and anger at me, he’s shown me love and reminded me that I have value.
While pets have many benefits, it’s only fair to take them into your home if you’re able to care for them properly. Some people have good intentions when they get a pet, but then find they can’t do what’s needed for the animal to have a good life. The time, energy and money required to properly care for an animal should all be considered before adding a pet to your family. While they’re helping us, we need to help them.