Growing up, I always wanted to have a dog. I am an avid lover of animals. Throughout my childhood, we owned a rabbit, a pet duck, numerous birds, and finally when I was 13, my parents agreed to rescue a dog from the Humane Society.
Needless to say, I loved having a dog. Despite the responsibility and the numerous times when our beloved wheaten-terrier mix destroyed the house, bit our friends, or chased the mail carrier around the block (yes, we had one of those….), I knew one day, when my kids were old enough, we too would offer such an experience to them.
So fast forward 30 years, and here we are. My children are now the ones doing the begging. They have been asking for a dog since they started talking. Until recently, my husband and I were not ready. We needed to wait until our jobs and work hours were more stable and predictable, and that adding more chaos to the daily routine was realistically manageable.
Although I adored my childhood dog, the truth is, I know the responsibility and the added stressors that having a pet entails. But, I also recognize the physical benefits as well as all the emotional benefits that came along with having a dog.
Despite my personal experience, however, I don’t really think I realized the benefit of owning a pet until I was well into adulthood. As a therapist, over time I have seen first hand how pets can help a vast assortment of clients, in so many different ways. The emotional benefits of owning a pet have been compared in studies to actual human friendship. Pets are known to help your mind, body and spiritual health.
How can owning a dog benefit you emotionally?
#1 – A dog gets you outside which elevates your mood and exposes you to a natural source of Vitamin D.
#2 – A dog naturally helps you become more active. When your body is stronger and healthier, you are less susceptible to mental health issues like depression and anxiety.
#3 – A dog helps build immunity against common allergens. The more you are exposed to such allergens from an early age, the less reactive you may become to them.
#4 – A dog lessens loneliness. A dog can distract you from life’s stressors or whatever else might be getting you down. Dogs can also sense when they are needed and are often a source of comfort when you are feeling down.
#5 – Dogs are great listeners. And unlike children, they do not hold grudges and they do not talk back.
#6 – Dogs love you unconditionally. They are always happy to see you, and are terrific in helping enhance your mood and increasing your self-esteem.
#7 – Dogs give you a purpose, especially if you often are overwhelmed with negative thoughts. Owning a dog means that a living creature is dependent on you for love, food and activity. Everyone needs to feel needed. And having a dog can help accomplish this while also lessening social alienation.
So, in case all are still wondering….my husband and I caved….We have officially contacted a breeder and are due to receive our puppy in the late spring. Am I crazy to add the extra responsibility to an already chaotic household? Probably.
Perhaps ask me this question again once the puppy is sleeping through the night and doing his business outside. But until then, I know the stressors will still be far outweighed by the benefits, and I am looking forward to having a ‘baby’ in the house again.
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