Adopting a companion animal is a big decision and one that should not be made lightly. It's a big responsibility, no different from raising and being responsible for a human child. They'll alter you life in ways you don't expect and many times they won't bring what you expect, but they will always surprise you and frequently that is a good thing. They bring a lightness to life that is frequently lacking and you can't put a price on that.
Every change or alteration a companion animal brings to your life is also accompanied by companionship, unconditional lover and a great listener who generally won't interrupt you as you speak. Okay, most of them anyway. Lola, our rescue English bully was a wonderful communicator who frequently had a lot to say. She was pretty talented at talking over us. And we loved it. Beyond the obvious emotional benefits of sharing your life with a companion animal, there are also many physical and mental health benefits to consider.
Let's start with an obvious one. If you don't have three fenced in acres for your dog to run around in, you're going to have to walk your dog. Dogs require daily exercise, which means you have to get off the couch and go with them. Exercise for both of you. And if you do a walk properly, i.e. let them smell as much as they want and greet whomever they want, you'll be forced to socialize as well, something sorely lacking in many lives. Quick note about dog walks - we'll have another post about what a dog walk should consist of. Hint, it isn't let's go to the bathroom and hurry to get back inside so you can get back to what you are doing. But I digress. Taking your dog for a walk or run benefits you as well. Even engaging with your felines, playing with them is a source of physical activity. Numerous studies have shown that people who share their lives with companion animals have lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and are less likely to suffer from heart attacks or strokes. Companion animals are also there when we are sick and they'll listen to our whining. Data suggests that they'll also help reduce pain and speed up healing.
The mental health benefits of sharing your life with a companion animal are off the charts. As an example, when I was laid off as COVID was hitting, I was forced into an early retirement andI found myself writing at home, accompanied by Lola, our older bully. At some point it hit me just how important she was in getting me through a really difficult time. She was my therapist and cowriter, among other hats that she wore. Companion animals provide unconditional love and companionship, and can help to reduce feelings of loneliness and depression. I know this from first hand experience. Data from numerous studies shows people who share their lives with companion animals have reduced stress and anxiety levels in addition to having lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and are less likely to suffer from anxiety and depression.
As we mentioned earlier, companion animals, particularly canines, are wonderful at providing with opportunities for socialization. Thank you dog walks. It's a great way to catch up with new friends that you meet and there is generally a really positive vibe among people who have companion animals. And the sense of purpose and responsibility they bring to your life is a another contributing benefit to your mental health.
Saving a Life Adopting a dog or cat can also have a positive impact on the community. By adopting from a shelter, you're giving a second chance to an animal in need. Many shelters are overcrowded and unable to care for all of the animals they take in. By adopting, you're helping to reduce the number of animals in shelters and potentially saving a life.
And lastly, when you rescue a companion animal, you are saving a life. And some times it may be your own. The incidence of depression has increased and many, many people have been pulled out of the dark depths of depression by their rescue companion. It's the old cliche - who rescued who? But it's true. And as I suggested earlier, I speak from first hand experience on this point.
If you're considering adding a pet to your family, consider adopting from a shelter. Not only will you be gaining a loyal companion, but you 're going to save a life. And it doesn't get any better than that.
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