The Power of Pets

If you have a pet, as most U.S. households do, you know just how ingrained they can become in the family unit. The most common family pets, dogs and cats, bring a family love, companionship, and loyalty, but they also bring a host of other benefits you may not be aware of.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that pets play a significant role in several health benefits. These include decreased blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglycerides. How, do you ask, is this possible? Well, having a dog obligates you to daily walks, backyard time throwing a ball, playing tug of war, and generally increased activity. When your dog looks at you with eager eyes and reminds you wear the leash is, you can’t help but hop up and head out.

Pets also help combat loneliness. Need proof? During 2020 when everyone was homebound and socialization came to a stop, animal shelters saw a surge in pet adoptions, with some adopting out all pets for the first time in their existence. And those pets made a difference. According to a survey by Rover.com, 93% of new pet owners reported that their “pandemic pet” had improved their physical and mental well-being. It’s been proven that petting a cat or dog or watching a fish swim is meditative in nature and can lead to decreased stress levels.

When out for walks with their pooches (one of the few things we could do during Covid), pet owners also enjoyed more socialization than the rest of the world could experience. That’s because the shared “dog lover” characteristic brings people together and opens up a channel for communication. So neighbors meet neighbors and strangers become friends when both are holding onto a leash.

Studies show that pets even help us build up our immune systems because they bring dirt and germs into the home. While that may not sound ideal, it is unavoidable and actually helps us out in the long run. In fact, studies have found that babies who are born into a home with a pet develop into children with stronger immune systems.

And speaking of children, there’s no better way to teach them responsibility than through pet ownership. Assigning them pet-related chores such as feeding, watering, cleaning aquariums or cages, and generally caring for the needs of another being are all invaluable in our quest to teach our children responsibility. Even young married adults benefit from the practice of caring for an animal – and doing so together – before taking the plunge into caring for a baby. It’s a great way to gauge if a couple is ready to give up some freedom and take on some messy work in exchange for growing a family and sharing their love.

Finally, although pets cannot express themselves verbally, they have a knack for teaching us how we should live. Spend a day watching a dog and you’ll get a number of takeaways: Never be afraid to express unadulterated joy and unconditional love. Nap when you’re tired (preferably in that one beam of sunlight coming through the window). Run and frolic, gazing after the squirrels that do it so much better. Find joy in the simple things, like the buzz of the bee and the sway of the palm trees. Be affectionate and show your love through your actions. Eat on time every day, so you never get hangry. Protect your loved ones and keep them safe. And last but not least, get and stay as close as you can to the ones you love.

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Rebecca Deurlein

REBECCA DEURLEIN IS A FREELANCE WRITER AND THE AUTHOR OF TEENAGERS 101: WHAT A TOP TEACHER WISHES YOU KNEW ABOUT HELPING YOUR KID SUCCEED (HARPER COLLINS). REBECCA WRITES FOR LOCAL AND NATIONAL MAGAZINES AND NEWSPAPERS AND LOVES EVERY MINUTE OF LIVING IN SUGAR LAND, TX. FIND HER ON AMAZON, BARNES & NOBLE, HUFFINGTON POST, OR THROUGH HER OWN BLOG A TEACHER’S GUIDE TO UNDERSTANDING TEENAGERS.