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The Human-Animal Bond

How Pets Help Us

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The human-animal bond is good for both species!

The human-animal bond is good for both species!

Getty Images News - David Paul Morris/Stringer
We love our pets. That is why we have them, right? Did you know that there are actual health benefits for people living with pets? Studies have shown real health benefits - lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, reduced stress levels, and better mental health for those living with pets.

Pets require our attention. Going for a walk, dropping everything for a game of Frisbee or hide and seek, going on a trail ride, and providing the everyday pet care encourage owners interact and to get out. We benefit from the exercise and fresh air that we may not seek out on our own. This does wonders for our health and emotions.

In addition to being a major health benefit just for being a pet, pets also actively help and assist humans in many ways. Below are just some of the ways that pets are formally helping humans live richer and fuller lives.

Pet Therapy
Pet therapy is something I have been involved with since an early age, and I have witnessed the the health effects; both for those receiving therapy and those who bring in their animals to hospitals and nursing homes. To see a nursing home patient light up when they see you and your dog or cat (or other approved therapy species) come through the door is an unforgettable experience. It is not uncommon for the nursing staff to remark that the patient hasn't spoken for some time or only speaks to some people - yet totally relaxes, talks to, and interacts with your pet. A current trend in nursing homes is to adopt a cat or small dog to live in the facility. This is a wonderful experience for the residents on a daily basis.

Hospitals, and children's hospitals in particular, usually allow pet therapy visits too, with amazing benefits for the sick and terminally ill. There are also pet therapy animals helping autistic humans interact and live fuller lives.

To get involved in pet therapy, please refer to some of the links below. There are national and local organizations. It is best to be affiliated with a therapy organization, as there are health and temperament requirements that need to be met by the pet therapists before visiting health care facilities.

Horse Therapy
Horses and horse riding is also part of pet therapy. Riding horses teaches balance and flexibility to the handicapped, and gives a sense of accomplishment and companionship to those involved. Some programs are related to the care of horses as well, teaching responsibility and horsemanship skills.

Service Dogs
Dogs are amazingly adaptable to the needs of humans. Services provided by dogs for humans include: dogs that guide the blind, assist the deaf, assist the mobility-impaired, even alert epileptic owners that a seizure is imminent, so the owner can sit down/take their medications before the seizure strikes. Dogs can be trained to turn on/off lights, pick up objects, even pull wheel chairs for those who are handicapped.

Police and Search & Rescue Dogs
Police dogs serve as protection for officers, as well as sniffing out drugs, explosives, and other dangerous chemicals long before a human can. Search and Rescue dogs use their powerful sense of smell to locate people lost or injured.

Please see the next page for additional pet therapy information and "getting started" resources.

Text: Copyright © Janet Tobiassen Crosby. All rights reserved.

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