There are not too many people in this country who don’t have or at least like household pets. Actually, the word household pet used to mean either a cat or a dog, but today it could be anything from a 12 foot snake, to a fruit bat, hanging upside down in the attic. Pets have been in our lives for a long time in fact, some people don’t even claim their pets as an animal anymore but a member of the family. I know I have had pets all of my life and I have loved every one of them. I also thought it was important to raise my children with pets because I believe that a child brought up loving an animal, will grow up being a kind hearted person.
Pets have been helping humans for as long as anyone can remember. They help lead the blind, they protect their families, they search for the lost, and even one courageous kitty almost died to save her litter of kittens. Many good hearted souls take animals in all shapes and sizes to senior citizen homes to cheer the elderly and give them something to look forward to every week. They warm our hearts and mend our souls and all they ask for is a warm place to sleep, something to eat, and a doctor visit if they get sick.
When Jill separated from her husband, she was having a really hard time of it. She was hoping it was only temporary but as weeks turned into months, it did not look like reconciliation was going to be in the future for Jill and her husband. After awhile, Jill started showing the classic signs of depression. She was crying all the time and she started withdrawing from her family and friends. She claimed to have lost her zest for living, and didn’t care about anything, one way or another.
Then one day she saw an add in the paper for “free kittens.” When Jill separated, she left her cat behind because it was actually her husband’s cat. So after work she went to look at them and wound up bringing two kitties’ home. She fell in love with them instantly and within days, her depression started to lift. She didn’t feel so alone anymore, and there was someone waiting for her when she got home from work everyday. They were a great “drug free” solution to her depression.
Jill’s story is just one of the many happy stories that people share about their pets. Many studies over the past 20 years have documented the positive power of pets have on our mental and physical health. A 1993 study in the Harvard Health Letter claims pets also help benefit: lower blood pressure, heart rate, and anxiety levels. The report also points to the fact that companion animals have more consistent behavior than their human counterparts because they offer their owner unconditional love.
Unlike well-meaning friends and family, who often choose sides and offer “helpful” unsolicited advice to individuals who are in the throes of separation and divorce, animals are non-judgmental. “If you have the best day you’ve ever had, your dog will be there for you 100%,” says Eric Cline, Canadian director of the Grief Recovery Institute. “Conversely, if you’ve just had the worst day you’ve ever had, your pet will still be there. Better still — they’re intuitive. They seem to know immediately when you’ve had a rotten day.”
There have been no actual studies specifically on how pets help people going through a divorce, but it makes sense that if pets can help people with other health issues, why not divorce too? “There is no doubt, that dogs can play a major role in guiding us safely through rocky periods in our lives,” claims Karen Allen, PhD, a researcher at the School of Medical & Biological Sciences, State of New York University at Buffalo, asked a group of women (admittedly, all self-described dog-lovers) to relate how dogs had influenced their lives.
All of the participants mentioned ways in which they believed their pets had assisted them through events involving change or transition, including divorce and death of a spouse. “Several women in this group offered numerous examples of how their dogs provided a unique kind of support in times of divorce, in situations with co-workers, and in events involving illness,” Allen reports. “A recurring theme was the use of imagery of the dog in times of high stress, and there were consistent reports that when the dog was imagined, obstacles appeared less daunting and difficult tasks more possible.”
Dogs, cats, horses, just about anything covered in fur and has anywhere between two to four legs, provide the emotional support for their human caretakers when they find themselves in an emotionally hard time. There is just no way someone can stay depressed when they have to tend to their pets. Just walking their dog and feeding him or her will lift one’s spirits for a little while. Pets give people something to focus on other than themselves and their own pain. Pet give us a sense of stability and continuity in our lives.
For those who don’t have children, their pets become their extended family. Many women who go through a divorce really depend on the love of their pets. I know I couldn’t have gone through my divorce without my three cats. Taking care of them and caring for a sick kitty is what kept me from doing something stupid. No matter what, we love our animals, and thankfully they love us.