What Pets Can Do: Health and Healing

I was visiting a community hospital recently, waiting in line for a coffee. Across the lobby was a large, beautiful dog. As visitors and patients stopped to pet the dog and talk with the owner, you could literally see how their faces lit up with smiles and their bodies relaxed.

In the week leading up to exams at my daughter’s school, they bring in therapy dogs for the students to interact with. It helps reduce anxiety at a very stressful time for students. For many people, animals provide countless health benefits.

Cats, dogs, birds, fish, hamsters: How have animals comforted you, helped with recovery or promoted good health for you?

@jimhd

I’ve had dogs most of my life, except in college. I’ve always enjoyed them as pets, and my wife has usually had a cat.

My life went upside down in 2005. I was falling into a really deep depression and made multiple suicide attempts. I kept thinking I’d hit bottom, but then I’d go down deeper and darker. I admitted myself to a small facility for survivors of suicide attempts, and stayed for 6 weeks, until I felt like I’d be safe again. I wasn’t really, but life went on. I retired and began therapy, and after a couple of years I talked with my therapist about training my dog to be a service dog. I had an Aussie/Border Collie mix, who was a wonderful dog, and after working with him for over a year, he became my service animal.

Barnabas went everywhere with me, and was of great service to me with depression, PTSD and suicidal thoughts. Everybody loved him. But last year at Valentine’s, he had a stroke or some other brain event, a week after a checkup at the vet’s, where I was told he had years left in him (he was only 9). That was really hard, especially since I didn’t have a therapist right then, and couldn’t get one until a year later. That was an 18 month stretch without a therapist, and the last six were pretty dark. I was fortunate to find my next dog at our local humane shelter, a few weeks after Barnabas died. Sadie had just been brought in that day because the people had too many dogs, and decided to return her to the shelter. She was fearful and skittish, but I felt an immediate bond with her. We left her alone for a couple of days, so she could become comfortable in our home, with us, and with my wife’s little dog, Pete. After a year, she’s joined to me at the hip. If I go outside, she follows, and comes in when I do. We have ten acres, so she has lots of room to run, rodents to catch, cows and horses to herd – they either ignore her or run her off – but she always comes back to me and sits down near me and watches me work in the yard. If I’m kneeling, she sits right in front of me for some petting. She’s very attentive, obedient and therapeutic for me. When I’m extra depressed or feeling the anxiety level rising, she lies in my lap and the pressure of the weight of her body provides calming therapy on my torso, for as long as I need her.

One challenge of having a service dog is public ignorance. Everytime we go out, someone asks if they can pet her (No), or just pets her without asking. If they don’t pet her, they talk to her, which is pretty much the same as petting because they’re drawing her attention away from me. Cesar teaches don’t touch, don’t talk, don’t make eye contact.

An issue I’ve been dealing with is lack of understanding of the difference between service and therapy dogs. A service dog serves only its handler. A therapy dog is trained to serve others, such as in hospitals, to provide calming therapy for people. I was asked to have Sadie certified as a therapy dog, but I couldn’t agree to it because of the differing purposes of the service and therapy animals. For 5 years, I was a Hospice volunteer, visiting patients for an hour a week, in their homes, in the hospital, in care homes – wherever they were. A few had house pets, so I left my dog in the car during the visit (always in safe, shaded places, with water). Every other patient loved having my dog come with me to visit them. I made an exception to the no pet rule with hospice patients because it meant so much to them. I had to resign a few months ago because they wrote a set of guidelines that specifies only certified therapy dogs could go with volunteers. I hated to give up that volunteer job. I think it helped me get out and interact with others, and it gave me a chance to give out to those who have a real need.

Of course, Sadie’s more than a pet, though she is that, too, but she provides the companionship of a pet, the devotion and unconditional love.

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@vsinn2000

I don’t want to think about what my life would be like without my service dog. She might have been an unlikely candidate, coming from the shelter with issues, but we’ve worked together to overcome most of the issues she had. Somehow, she was made to be timid and fearful, but she’s come a long way in 18 months. I still miss my previous dog, largely, I think, because his death was so sudden and unexpected. But I bonded with Sadie in the shelter lobby, before the paperwork was even started.

Jim

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@jimhd

I’ve had dogs most of my life, except in college. I’ve always enjoyed them as pets, and my wife has usually had a cat.

My life went upside down in 2005. I was falling into a really deep depression and made multiple suicide attempts. I kept thinking I’d hit bottom, but then I’d go down deeper and darker. I admitted myself to a small facility for survivors of suicide attempts, and stayed for 6 weeks, until I felt like I’d be safe again. I wasn’t really, but life went on. I retired and began therapy, and after a couple of years I talked with my therapist about training my dog to be a service dog. I had an Aussie/Border Collie mix, who was a wonderful dog, and after working with him for over a year, he became my service animal.

Barnabas went everywhere with me, and was of great service to me with depression, PTSD and suicidal thoughts. Everybody loved him. But last year at Valentine’s, he had a stroke or some other brain event, a week after a checkup at the vet’s, where I was told he had years left in him (he was only 9). That was really hard, especially since I didn’t have a therapist right then, and couldn’t get one until a year later. That was an 18 month stretch without a therapist, and the last six were pretty dark. I was fortunate to find my next dog at our local humane shelter, a few weeks after Barnabas died. Sadie had just been brought in that day because the people had too many dogs, and decided to return her to the shelter. She was fearful and skittish, but I felt an immediate bond with her. We left her alone for a couple of days, so she could become comfortable in our home, with us, and with my wife’s little dog, Pete. After a year, she’s joined to me at the hip. If I go outside, she follows, and comes in when I do. We have ten acres, so she has lots of room to run, rodents to catch, cows and horses to herd – they either ignore her or run her off – but she always comes back to me and sits down near me and watches me work in the yard. If I’m kneeling, she sits right in front of me for some petting. She’s very attentive, obedient and therapeutic for me. When I’m extra depressed or feeling the anxiety level rising, she lies in my lap and the pressure of the weight of her body provides calming therapy on my torso, for as long as I need her.

One challenge of having a service dog is public ignorance. Everytime we go out, someone asks if they can pet her (No), or just pets her without asking. If they don’t pet her, they talk to her, which is pretty much the same as petting because they’re drawing her attention away from me. Cesar teaches don’t touch, don’t talk, don’t make eye contact.

An issue I’ve been dealing with is lack of understanding of the difference between service and therapy dogs. A service dog serves only its handler. A therapy dog is trained to serve others, such as in hospitals, to provide calming therapy for people. I was asked to have Sadie certified as a therapy dog, but I couldn’t agree to it because of the differing purposes of the service and therapy animals. For 5 years, I was a Hospice volunteer, visiting patients for an hour a week, in their homes, in the hospital, in care homes – wherever they were. A few had house pets, so I left my dog in the car during the visit (always in safe, shaded places, with water). Every other patient loved having my dog come with me to visit them. I made an exception to the no pet rule with hospice patients because it meant so much to them. I had to resign a few months ago because they wrote a set of guidelines that specifies only certified therapy dogs could go with volunteers. I hated to give up that volunteer job. I think it helped me get out and interact with others, and it gave me a chance to give out to those who have a real need.

Of course, Sadie’s more than a pet, though she is that, too, but she provides the companionship of a pet, the devotion and unconditional love.

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Vicky @vsinn2000

How interesting! Do you raise or train dogs for therapy purposes?

Teresa

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@jimhd

I’ve had dogs most of my life, except in college. I’ve always enjoyed them as pets, and my wife has usually had a cat.

My life went upside down in 2005. I was falling into a really deep depression and made multiple suicide attempts. I kept thinking I’d hit bottom, but then I’d go down deeper and darker. I admitted myself to a small facility for survivors of suicide attempts, and stayed for 6 weeks, until I felt like I’d be safe again. I wasn’t really, but life went on. I retired and began therapy, and after a couple of years I talked with my therapist about training my dog to be a service dog. I had an Aussie/Border Collie mix, who was a wonderful dog, and after working with him for over a year, he became my service animal.

Barnabas went everywhere with me, and was of great service to me with depression, PTSD and suicidal thoughts. Everybody loved him. But last year at Valentine’s, he had a stroke or some other brain event, a week after a checkup at the vet’s, where I was told he had years left in him (he was only 9). That was really hard, especially since I didn’t have a therapist right then, and couldn’t get one until a year later. That was an 18 month stretch without a therapist, and the last six were pretty dark. I was fortunate to find my next dog at our local humane shelter, a few weeks after Barnabas died. Sadie had just been brought in that day because the people had too many dogs, and decided to return her to the shelter. She was fearful and skittish, but I felt an immediate bond with her. We left her alone for a couple of days, so she could become comfortable in our home, with us, and with my wife’s little dog, Pete. After a year, she’s joined to me at the hip. If I go outside, she follows, and comes in when I do. We have ten acres, so she has lots of room to run, rodents to catch, cows and horses to herd – they either ignore her or run her off – but she always comes back to me and sits down near me and watches me work in the yard. If I’m kneeling, she sits right in front of me for some petting. She’s very attentive, obedient and therapeutic for me. When I’m extra depressed or feeling the anxiety level rising, she lies in my lap and the pressure of the weight of her body provides calming therapy on my torso, for as long as I need her.

One challenge of having a service dog is public ignorance. Everytime we go out, someone asks if they can pet her (No), or just pets her without asking. If they don’t pet her, they talk to her, which is pretty much the same as petting because they’re drawing her attention away from me. Cesar teaches don’t touch, don’t talk, don’t make eye contact.

An issue I’ve been dealing with is lack of understanding of the difference between service and therapy dogs. A service dog serves only its handler. A therapy dog is trained to serve others, such as in hospitals, to provide calming therapy for people. I was asked to have Sadie certified as a therapy dog, but I couldn’t agree to it because of the differing purposes of the service and therapy animals. For 5 years, I was a Hospice volunteer, visiting patients for an hour a week, in their homes, in the hospital, in care homes – wherever they were. A few had house pets, so I left my dog in the car during the visit (always in safe, shaded places, with water). Every other patient loved having my dog come with me to visit them. I made an exception to the no pet rule with hospice patients because it meant so much to them. I had to resign a few months ago because they wrote a set of guidelines that specifies only certified therapy dogs could go with volunteers. I hated to give up that volunteer job. I think it helped me get out and interact with others, and it gave me a chance to give out to those who have a real need.

Of course, Sadie’s more than a pet, though she is that, too, but she provides the companionship of a pet, the devotion and unconditional love.

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I didn’t start out to train the dogs but they demonstrated to me their willingness to care for their human. I swear it’s just a quirky trait in their bloodline. When I have a waiting list, no random irresponsible breeding of litters, I learn everything I can about the potential buyer, their schedule, social life and living arrangements . I spend several months training that pup to fill those needs and fit that scedule. The disposition of the dog is ultimately the deciding factor. It has to be a win – win because I will not set a dog up to fail. It’s a definite need and a role I am willing to take on to truly make a person’s life easier. And I know that unconditional love offered by the dog will be returned without question by the new owner.
Vicky

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@danybegood1

@contentandwell , I can’t forget about Harley, my baby. I got him as Maggie was dying of cancer. Bad times. Anyway, at the time I didn’t know I would be having even worse times ahead. Some day I will try to explain why. I was experiencing a great deal of fear. I expected either myself, or my kids, to be attacked at any moment. If I hadn’t had Harley, things would have been so much worse for me. He kept me sane. He has been with me almost 24/7. What will I do when he passes? After I cry, if I’m able, I will adopt another dog that needs me. Guys, there are millions out there who need us.
Judy

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So many senior dogs, already family trained, are sitting in shelters waiting to be rescued!

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@danybegood1

@101082101082 , Hi agent Darien, it’s ok to talk about whatever u want to here. Most of us have some kind of “problem, hangup, or something”, or we wouldn’t be here. Welcome to the site. And I absolutely adore little animals. I have a Shi Tzu named Harley. I fell in love with him the moment I looked into his eyes. The color of milk chocolate. He’s my baby, and we are together 24/7. He kept me sane in 2013, and 2014. The worst years of my life. My buddy. I hope you and your husband are doing well. Judy

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Miss all of you, Mommy has been busy with stuff. It’s been too cold for me to get out much and I need to see other people to feel good.
Three and one half months since we moved, and now Mommy is going thru so much stuff we are going to give away, and it’s Christmas with all those things to do. Mommy and I have decided to stay put, stay where we moved to and not go visiting. Good this time since
we are on the move to become more organized. Plus, Mommy is giving away to special people art work we have had for 30 years, where we lived. Feels good, but past is gone. Got to have room for today and future. But, is depressing at times. Mommy even gave away two of my quilts I use to pile up on but they were too heavy for her to keep washing them and it’s cold here so better to give away now to people who need them, but I do miss them…have to keep giving things away to people to make the little box home work for us.
You know how small I am, so we just need small place now. Location good! And, its all one floor so real good for both of us.
Mommy called a friend of hers she went to college with today and it sounded as though they both felt good. He has been single all his life, an anthropologist who is just fascinating. We sent him a picture of me when I was on TV the last 2 weeks. We’ll see how soon we hear from him? Mommy would like to see him because she trusts him. Moving and not having a good male friend to talk to is lonely even if he lives in another city. 45 years of knowing a person is enough to have faith and trust. He is a writer and teacher, very open person who knows all cultures. He even has been to Mayo Rochester for a serious health problem. Mommy may see if they could make their appointments there so we could all meet at neutral place. Hate to say it but since Daddy died it’s so lonely for us. We need more
people in our lives. Do you know what I’m saying. Ones we can trust, have faith in and want nothing from us but good, friendship.
We’ll see if he is dependable now as he once was. He still has a tie Mommy made him 45 years ago…guess that says something?
The tie was perfectly made and Mommy remembers how he came to her parents house to visit and pick it up.
Wish they would start seeing onc another, only two Amtrak stops away and we’d see what develops…one problem still exists today that stood in the way years ago…he said he would visit us here but we will see?
Daddy was so dependable. We are use to dependable and want that or else not worth it…what do you think?
No marriage would be appropriate at this age or needed. Here we go thinking about unknown based on him making two phone calls
and the tone of his voice while on the phone. Waiting, patience but also we need to get stuff done in apartment here so he doesn’t think we are unorganized. So we better go to sleep, but I have missed all of you and need to stay close to you with holidays here.
OK?
Hugs, Agent Darien

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Just wanted to give my support to all the little ones who need homes at Humane Society’s all over. They need you and you may totally enjoy them.
Mommy and Daddy choose me at a breeder but I also could have been at a Humane Society waiting to give to an individual or family. We love and want to be loved. The Holidays are here and there are lots of Rescue Breed Humane Societies if you have your mind made up on a particular breed of dog or cat. They are waiting for you to love and they will love you right back. Roger out, Agent Darien

Liked by barbarn

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@danybegood1

@contentandwell , I can’t forget about Harley, my baby. I got him as Maggie was dying of cancer. Bad times. Anyway, at the time I didn’t know I would be having even worse times ahead. Some day I will try to explain why. I was experiencing a great deal of fear. I expected either myself, or my kids, to be attacked at any moment. If I hadn’t had Harley, things would have been so much worse for me. He kept me sane. He has been with me almost 24/7. What will I do when he passes? After I cry, if I’m able, I will adopt another dog that needs me. Guys, there are millions out there who need us.
Judy

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Thanks for your note. Just reading an article “The Real Benefits of Pet Ownership” by John Bradshaw. “Animals may not make us healthier, but they help bring people together” in the Wall Street Journal of 10/28-10/29 2017 page C3. Good article that uses the expression the “pet effect” as pet owners are making friendships easily in their neighborhoods, etc. Also, with cat owners they group together and cat sit for each other when needed. All good outcomes from our pets.

Article also reported that Dr. John Bradshaw has a new book “The Animals Among Us: How Pets Make Us Human,” that was published by Basic Books on October 31, 2017.

Agent Darien says he wants the book for Christmas! Guess Humane Societies rescue humans as well as their pets. We all need and love each other.

Hugs to all and if anyone reads the book I’d love to hear about how they feel about it.

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@danybegood1

@contentandwell , I can’t forget about Harley, my baby. I got him as Maggie was dying of cancer. Bad times. Anyway, at the time I didn’t know I would be having even worse times ahead. Some day I will try to explain why. I was experiencing a great deal of fear. I expected either myself, or my kids, to be attacked at any moment. If I hadn’t had Harley, things would have been so much worse for me. He kept me sane. He has been with me almost 24/7. What will I do when he passes? After I cry, if I’m able, I will adopt another dog that needs me. Guys, there are millions out there who need us.
Judy

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@AgentDarien

Sadie here. I was rescued through the local humane society shelter. I’d had a rough start to my life and I was a nervous wreck when I met Jim. I settled down gradually, and by now, I think I help him with his issues. I’m lucky to be Jim’s service dog, cuz I get to go everywhere with him. In fact it’s time to go remind him that it’s time to go to his appointment with the therapist. His name is Robert, and I like him. He’s always saying that I’m the sweetest dog he’s ever seen. We always stop at McDonald’s on the way and share an ice cream cone. Since Jim overdid it with the desserts over the holidays, he’s trying to lose some weight, so I haven’t had a cone for a while. I hope he’ll break from his diet today. Of course, I need to lose some weight, too, so I haven’t been getting many scraps from his plate lately, and he really doesn’t give me as much dry food as I think I need.

Gotta go visit Robert. I’ll talk more later.

Sadie and Jim

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@colleenyoung

@jimhd, @hazelblumberg, @marylou705, @artscaping, @contentandwell, @gailfaith, @gailg, @magspierce, @artscaping, @v1crew: in various discussions on Connect, you have mentioned the health and therapy benefits animals have had for you. I invite you to share stories and pictures about your experiences where pets have comforted, how you’ve trained your companions for specific therapeutic roles, and so much more. What special story do you have to share?

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I have always loved and owned dogs – since six years of age. My older brother is a veterinarian, and as I grew up we had many wayward animals in the home. Thorough college, as an adult, and as my husband and I raised five kids, we fostered, adopted and bought dogs.

At age fifty, when severe depression fell from the sky and square into my being, I was personally witness to the healing, active, protective insights embedded in the souls of many dogs.

My personal benefit powered want to provide an opportunity for others to share in the glory.

I now own five different games: two who happily serve as therapy dogs to kids and adults with cancer, as well as kids in an alternative school due to behavioral health challenges.

Words pale. The sumptuous sensation from both feeling the benefit and watching others literally absorb the power is magical.

It is not for all. Not all dogs are appropriate to train for this service Cr. But when the stars align, magic does happen.

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@colleenyoung

@jimhd, @hazelblumberg, @marylou705, @artscaping, @contentandwell, @gailfaith, @gailg, @magspierce, @artscaping, @v1crew: in various discussions on Connect, you have mentioned the health and therapy benefits animals have had for you. I invite you to share stories and pictures about your experiences where pets have comforted, how you’ve trained your companions for specific therapeutic roles, and so much more. What special story do you have to share?

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Hello @resolve

Thank you for that great story of the healing power of pets to people with all kinds of problems. it sounds as if you have experienced their benefit and they have helped others!

Teresa

Liked by lioness

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I work with a hospice group the used dogs with their patients – another group that uses them

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@marylou705
Your loving picture, comments on purring and getting your pets from shelters confirm my own experiences. My dogs and cats have all come from shelters or were found abandoned on the street.

I found my dearly departed siberian husky on the streets. He was terrified and starved. I stopped my car, got out and opened the back door to get some treats. I called him sugarbun, and he cautiously came to me. He saw my old dog, Lobo (10 yrs at the time), in the front passenger seat, then took the treat from my hand and jumped in the back seat. I took him home where he passed the kitty inspection (no growling or hissing- just respectful sniffs), ate all the food presented and then tried to eat he paper plate. I got him to my vet who pronounced him under-nourished needing shots and neutering.

For the next 16 years I was blessed with the best dog, Guapo.

He helped me through a nasty divorce. He helped me move cross country and through many health problems. His kindness towards cats and small animals was amazing. He loved his hikes, and cuddling with me while watching tv. He became best friends with my new husband.
I still miss him but am so happy that he found me that day years ago.

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@profnorma

@marylou705
Your loving picture, comments on purring and getting your pets from shelters confirm my own experiences. My dogs and cats have all come from shelters or were found abandoned on the street.

I found my dearly departed siberian husky on the streets. He was terrified and starved. I stopped my car, got out and opened the back door to get some treats. I called him sugarbun, and he cautiously came to me. He saw my old dog, Lobo (10 yrs at the time), in the front passenger seat, then took the treat from my hand and jumped in the back seat. I took him home where he passed the kitty inspection (no growling or hissing- just respectful sniffs), ate all the food presented and then tried to eat he paper plate. I got him to my vet who pronounced him under-nourished needing shots and neutering.

For the next 16 years I was blessed with the best dog, Guapo.

He helped me through a nasty divorce. He helped me move cross country and through many health problems. His kindness towards cats and small animals was amazing. He loved his hikes, and cuddling with me while watching tv. He became best friends with my new husband.
I still miss him but am so happy that he found me that day years ago.

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@profnorma My daughter went to volunteer at a pet adoption event a few years back. One little dog was left, with one eye and a tail that was obviously not as long as it should have been so she took her home to "foster" until they could find her a home. Well, we knew that dog had found a home then. That little dog adores my daughter and she and her husband adore the dog. I kid that she will probably be more upset when the dog passes away than she will when one of us do. As they say, "there's a little truth in every jest".
She used to bring the dog to work and the dog would nap in an open drawer. I think the dog has been very good for her, I'm glad she has her.
JK

2014 Belly in drawer

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@profnorma

@marylou705
Your loving picture, comments on purring and getting your pets from shelters confirm my own experiences. My dogs and cats have all come from shelters or were found abandoned on the street.

I found my dearly departed siberian husky on the streets. He was terrified and starved. I stopped my car, got out and opened the back door to get some treats. I called him sugarbun, and he cautiously came to me. He saw my old dog, Lobo (10 yrs at the time), in the front passenger seat, then took the treat from my hand and jumped in the back seat. I took him home where he passed the kitty inspection (no growling or hissing- just respectful sniffs), ate all the food presented and then tried to eat he paper plate. I got him to my vet who pronounced him under-nourished needing shots and neutering.

For the next 16 years I was blessed with the best dog, Guapo.

He helped me through a nasty divorce. He helped me move cross country and through many health problems. His kindness towards cats and small animals was amazing. He loved his hikes, and cuddling with me while watching tv. He became best friends with my new husband.
I still miss him but am so happy that he found me that day years ago.

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@profnorma Nice story about your husky… I have had a lot of rescue animals… a lab I had for 17 years, and currently have 3 rescued cats who were all born feral and fostered as kittens… one of them, a sweet calico, coming from a rescue group in Puerto Rico before the recent hurricanes hit. I also have a rescued Tennessee Walker horse that I ride and enjoy. Riding him has helped me rehab after neck spine surgery and rebuild my core strength and lost muscle. I was just before my surgery that I adopted the first cat, and a few months after the 2 kittens and they all helped with my recovery and took naps with me while I was healing. At the time I adopted the first cat, I was a caregiver to my parents toward the end of my father's life, and I needed some comic relief, so I got a silly bottle raised cat who loved attention. He could make me laugh even on the hardest days. I thought he needed some kitty friends and he really enjoys playing with them. They all make me laugh and always want to play.

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My husband and I use to take our dog to the nursing home brightened up the patients in there you could see it in there eyes

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