As I cleaned the bedroom where we keep my dog’s crate--she still cannot be trusted with the run of the house when we are out – it occurred to me that she has not been in it in weeks. During this time of working from home, the kids being home from school for the remainder of the school year, and less frequent trips to the store, our golden retriever has had the run of the house. She is living her best life right now. Her people are home all day. She is getting at least one walk a day – but most days she gets two or three walks.
I cannot help but think with her around us all the time, we are living our best lives as well. She has a calming effect on all of us. She gives us a reason to get outside and walk. She keeps us on a schedule with her morning and evening routines. She keeps our toes warm at night as she lies at our feet while we relax.
The experts would agree with me when it comes to the calming effects pets can have on our psyches. This is why during a time like this, I am happy that I have a pet to keep me grounded. Here are a few ways pets can have a soothing effect on us.
Dog owners are less likely to suffer from depression.
Exercise can do wonders in terms of boosting your mood and easing depression, and dog owners are more likely to make exercise a priority. Our dog would not think of letting us off the hook when it comes to her morning walk. This morning walk also adds routine to our day, giving us a reason to get out of bed (even on the weekends). According to Desiree Wiercyski, a life coach in Fort Wayne, IN, "A pet can remind you that you're not alone. Pets offer unconditional love, which can be extraordinarily soothing when feeling isolated." Adults who live alone can especially benefit from the companionship of a dog, since isolation and loneliness are contributing factors to depression.
Pets fulfill our basic need for touch.
Not only does petting an eager pet feel good (to you both), it can also lower the stress hormone, cortisol. According to a University of Missouri–Columbia study, petting a dog for just 15 minutes can release serotonin, prolactin, and oxytocin – all feel-good hormones. One of the best ways to manage stress is through touch and movement. Petting a dog can lower blood pressure and help you feel less stressed. When you need a brain break from the monotony of at-home school and work, a pet provides a super healthy outlet for reprieve. Go outside and play a game of fetch with your dog, throw some cat toys around the living room, or just give your pet a good grooming. It will do wonders for you both!
Caring for a pet can make you feel needed.
Caring for a pet is a big responsibility, not unlike caring for a child. Cats and dogs need their basic needs met--being fed, exercised, and taken for regular vet visits, but they also need to be talked to, played with, and entertained. The other morning, my dog was following so closely on my heels I wondered if I had a dog biscuit hidden in my pocket. Then I realized I had forgotten to feed her breakfast! She was not going to let me forget that important detail. As soon as my husband comes downstairs in the morning, his four-legged friend is waiting, tail wagging, ready for the walk she knows is coming. These routines that have become ingrained in our dog’s mind help us to feel important in her life. Our dog helps to boost our morale and sense of self-worth. We talk all the time about how lucky we are to have rescued her from a shelter, and how we feel like the ones who were rescued, not the other way around. She brings us such happiness.
Adopting a pet can add to your sense of fulfillment.
When you know that you have provided a safe and caring home to an animal that may otherwise have been euthanized, that is a feeling like no other. Adopting a pet is a satisfying endeavor and you will reap the benefits for years to come as you bond with your dog.
Make your pet a priority!
Pet owners who prioritize their pet’s health by enrolling in a pet insurance policy get so much more than coverage for unexpected vet bills. The 24/7 Vet Helpline can be a lifesaver during quarantine when you can’t easily access your veterinarian. The many resources provided to PetPartners’ policyholders can give you the peace of mind that you need when it comes to caring for your pets.
I am thankful that my dog boosts my mood, gives me a reason to get outside and walk, and keeps me on a routine right now. How about you? We would love to hear how your dog (or cat) is lifting your spirits in these unprecedented times.