I think it’s a fairly safe statement to say that our country is pretty stressed out right now. We are fast-becoming a polarized nation, too quick to spew venom at those who don’t agree with our views or the way things should be. We turn on the tv or our computers and are bombarded with rhetoric from all sides that is intent on separating us from our friends and family and neighbors even more than we are already are. We are faced with frightening tragedies and mass shootings in places we once felt safe: work, houses of worship, schools, and entertainment venues. More and more we are living an increasingly remote life behind screens, with less human interaction, anxiety among teens, increasing rates of depression and suicide, and we need help.
I’d like to propose a place to start; just a small step forward for each of us. Let’s start with our four-legged friends. Really. Dogs and cats can help us each and every day in small ways and in some very big ways. Studies have shown that the bond between people and their pets can improve our health, lower stress, and bring happiness to their owners. Some of the health benefits of having a pet (from the CDC) include:
Considering the detrimental effects that stress has on our health, the value of having a pet in our lives seem like a pretty good way to counteract the negative! Don’t believe it? Just think about any time you’ve come home from a particularly stressful day, or had a day when you were feeling sad and teary. Didn’t it seem like somehow your dog or cat knew? They were extra lovey, extra cuddly and just being close to them and petting them helped a little. Didn’t it? It’s happened so many times to me. My dogs and cats have definitely caught some of my tears in their fur over the years. Sometimes, it seems they are the only ones who truly understand.
In addition to the health benefits of having a pet, dogs and cats (or pet pig, chicken, bunny, etc… I don’t want to discriminate) can teach us so much about being better people. I really believe this. Animals have qualities that we as humans should definitely try to emulate more often. Unconditional love, living in the moment, taking time to play each day, empathy, and following our instincts are all things we could learn from our animal companions. But I think one of the most important lessons I’ve learned from working with animals for so many years is FORGIVENESS. I’ve seen some of the most heinous acts of cruelty done to dogs and cats that have come through Bideawee and I can tell you that without fail, these are some of the most loving animals I’ve ever met. They’ve forgiven humans and they trusted again, allowing us to heal them and care for them and make them part of our families. Sometimes it takes a little while and sometimes it takes no time at all. But they forgive. Think about this. Have you ever stepped on your dog’s paw? Or your cat’s tail? It’s the end of the world for just a moment and then what happens? In a split second, they turn around come back to you wanting to be pet and curled up by your side.
The last thing I will leave you with is this: When times seem tough, and you are saddened by current events and stressed from daily life, take your dog for a walk, pet or brush your cat, play with them or just sit and snuggle. It won’t solve the world’s problems today, but it will help you, it will help them, and it may just help the world tomorrow. If you are busy loving an animal, there isn’t much room for hate in your heart.