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The Healing Properties of Pets
by Dr. Dale V. Atkins, November 2009

You may wonder whether it is worthwhile to get a pet. You're not home all the time and a pet would be one more thing to think about, this is true. But floppy ears and a wagging tail to welcome you is not the only thing that makes having a pet appealing.

Whether or not you had a pet when you were a child, you can open your heart to an animal. The returns can be beyond measure. Pets provide companionship; improved physical, emotional, and mental health and well-being; connection; security; playfulness; laughter; and exercise. Pets can be a source of great comfort. Dealing with loss is more tolerable because you will enjoy the pet's company and feel less desolate. Older people with pets are usually less lonely, more social, and have fewer frequent doctor visits.

Pets helps you stay balanced as you learn the joy of taking care of another, observe the way they take in the world, and become the recipient of unconditional love. The research on the positive therapeutic effects on people just validates what pet owners have always known. If you live alone, have an "empty nest", or have recently retired, having the right pet companionship can save your sanity while enhancing the quality of your life. And if you have a pet and wish to help others, consider entering a certified animal therapy training program so that you and your pet can enhance the quality of life for children or adults in such places as hospitals, schools, and day care programs (adult or child.) You can discover more about such programs by visiting sites as www.thegooddogfoundation.org or www.deltasociety.org. And have a look at Sarah Kershaw's New York Times article, "Good Dog, Smart Dog," at: www.nytimes.com/2009/11/01/weekinreview/01kershaw.html?scp=1&sq=good%20dog%20smart%20dog&st=cse.

The space between your pet and you is a deep source of energy, love, communication and care, and that goes both ways. In our busy and stressful lives the human-animal bond is becoming more meaningful. The testament is the statistic that 62% of all homes in the US own a dog, cat or horse. As Janet Marlow, of www.musicforpetsandpeople.com, states, "Follow the trail of an animal into the human heart and you will find a better world."

Companionship comes in many forms. Do not overlook the value of the human-pet bond.



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