Let's hear from Debra:
Health Benefits to Owning a Pet
Ten years ago, a close friend of mine died unexpectedly. The sudden loss sent me spiraling into a major depression. I didn’t want to move. I didn’t want to speak. I didn’t even want to eat.
The only thing that kept me functional was Calypso, my thirteen year old cat. Calypso suffered from diabetes and required two insulin shots a day as well as carefully scheduled feedings.
On days when I longed to stay in bed, I told myself that, no matter how lousy I felt, Calypso needed me. That thought was enough to make me roll off my mattress to face the day. The depression gradually lifted, in part, I’m convinced, because Calypso forced me to keep to my daily routine.
I’m certainly not alone in experiencing health benefits from having a pet. According to the Centers for Disease Control, studies have shown that having a pet can lower blood pressure and cholesterol, two significant risk factors for heart attacks. Sure enough, when studies looked at survival rates among heart attack patients, those who owned a pet survived longer than those who did not.
Common sense suggests that pets can be a great source of companionship for people who live alone. However another lesser known benefit of pet ownership is that it actually increases your chances to socialize with others. If you walk around the block by yourself, you’re lucky if you exchange smiles with the people you meet. If you walk around the block with your pet dog, however, people are more likely to speak to you—they admire your dog, ask your permission to pet him or her, and relay stories about their own beloved pets. Loving animals opens the door to communication and gives you and the other person a shared interest.
In my role as a medical social worker, I’ve watched animals break through to many patients who were so traumatized or ill that they had lost all interest in interacting with other humans. My book Hospice Tails describes several of those experiences.
For instance, I will never forget my patient, Larry. By the time I met him, dementia had robbed him of his speech and much of his voluntary movement. He did not make eye contact with me or his wife, nor did he acknowledge our existence in any other way, but up until the day he died, he was still able to reach out a trembling hand to pet his beloved dog.
Pets may not be the answer for everyone—I understand that some people just don’t like animals—but a clear majority of people do benefit from owning and caring pets. Just think of them as a furry, four-footed medicine with no unpleasant side effects!
About her book:
Funny, sad, and irreverent, Hospice Tails shares the stories of pets who traveled to the door of death with their humans. Meet King, an abused pit bull fiercely loyal to his rescuer, Jasper and Jackie, Amazon parrots who sang their person to his final sleep, Washington, a golden retriever who became the only connection to the world for an Alzheimer's patient, and ten other animals who accompanied their beloved people on the hospice journey.
You can find Debra at:
GIVEAWAY TIME: You have the chance to win a copy of Hospice Tails! There will be one winner. You must be 13 or older to enter. This tour is running through WOW (Women on Writing) and I will be forwarding the information to them. Please leave a comment with y our email address in order to enter. This contest will run until December 13th.