The link between pets and stress relief has long been known. The role that animals (domesticated pets, specifically) can and do play in helping human beings achieve and maintain wellness in many areas of life is a very interesting field. Organizations such as Therapet in the USA or Therapeutic Pets of Canada (TPOC) are doing amazing things for people AND pets to help relieve all kinds of stress.
Why do people keep pets? They say that a dog is man's best friend because of the unconditional love that a dog will show towards its owner. The health-benefits-related history between pets and stress relief is very extensive.
We have known for hundreds of years that pets provide a form of animal therapy to their keepers. The number of therapeutic jobs an animal is capable of fulfilling is quite amazing.
Through programs like "therapy dog training", animals provide assistance in extended care facilities to comfort the elderly; pet therapists are used to assist with grieving and loss; pet therapy is used in dealing with trauma situations; animals (horses) are used to help persons with physical disabilities improve their mobility; and most recently, I learned that dogs are used to help children who struggle with reading become better readers.
Whatever the use of pets as animal therapists, it seems an excellent way to help us human beings relieve stress and achieve wellness. In many different ways, pets and stress relief go hand in had or paw in hand, that is.
It's one thing for us to acknowledge the link between pets and stress relief, but animals can be a very large cause of stress as well. So often, we get pets as gifts or because we are overcome with a sense of social justice if an animal is being mistreated. We take on the responsibility of owning a pet without a real plan as to how we will fit this responsibility into our lives. What we thought was going to be animal therapy has now become an animal-ownership induced stress. The idea of pets and stress relief as a solution suddenly falls flat.
Or what if your pet becomes ill and you don't have the resources to take care of that pet. In my own life, I had a recent terrible experience with a pet that became very ill and didn't respond to any of the known treatments. No matter how much I spent and no matter how many vets I saw, the dog just got sicker and sicker. I felt so bad for that dog's suffering (our baby) that it caused me an immense amount of stress. That dog is now in a much better place and her suffering has ended, but I feel stressed out just thinking about the situation as I write this.
What about you? Have you watched the recent hit movie, Marley and me? Animals can be our greatest therapists but they can also pose a huge problem in our lives if they are not well-managed. The idea of pets and stress relief is not something that should be looked at lightly.
If you don't already have an animal friend in your life, perhaps the following test about pets and stress relief will help you determine what role animals play or should play in your life.