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?

Interested in more discussions like this? Go to the Just Want to Talk group.

Colleen @colleenyoung and others

At Henry Ford Hospital, they have a therapy dog as well who roams the hospital (with a handler) greeting people and allowing patients and visitors to pet him. His name is Henry (of course) and I always look forward to seeing him! He really is a great therapist!

Teresa

REPLY
@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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We have rescue cats, tho I grew up with a myriad of pets. Two of mine have a limb missing, one is 18, one has lymphoma, and one has IBD! It is such a joy to me to cater to their special needs, and they give love back in spades. Did you know that the frequency of a cats purr is healing? Both to the cat and to the doting owner?

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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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@marylou705
I did not know about the purring and healing connection – but I certainly believe it’s true! Great picture

Teresa

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@danybegood1

@contentandwell, Hi y’all, Judy here, I saw your conversation. If you want a pet I will tell you what I did. I’m not saying it’s right, just sayin…My husband also (last husband), did not want a pet, and he was pretty adamant. I had always wanted a Golden Retriever, so one day at Christmas, the kids and I piled into the car and drove to Tacoma to find Gillians’ Maggie May. She was the only little girl available but I loved her at first sight.
She was already 3 months old, and it seemed like people were choosing other dogs over her. Their loss, our gain. Anyway, my husband was in the living room when we walked in. He set his mouth in a line of disapproval and stalked into the bedroom. He said, “why did you do that”? “I really wanted a Golden”. I asked him, “what if I was dying, then could I have a dog”? “Well sure”, he replied. I said, “well, why do I have to be dying to have something to enjoy and love, like a dog”? He had no answers for me. Maggie became a daddy’s girl and was a complete joy to be around. She was the first one out of the house to bring in the groceries. If, while she was outside, she needed to go pee, she would walk away from the grocery bag about 15-20ft, go pee, and go back for the bag. She also brought in the mail, tied up in a plastic bag of course. She was a wonder to behold, and I was never sorry that I went and got her, no, not one day. If you ever can’t decide over a dog to choose, Goldens are great. They already know how to smile. That’s what I did. Love you all, Judy.

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@danybegood1 Dany, I know my husband and he would not deal well with that. To him that would be me saying his feelings do not matter. I would not do that. My daughter actually wanted to get me a pet for Christmas one time, figuring that he couldn’t not let me keep it but I told her that it would only cause problems and not to.
JK

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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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@danybegood1 It’s not easy when you lose a beloved pet. We had to put ours down and that was one of the most difficult things I ever did. He was such a special dog. We got him for my daughter and she and I, after poring through baby name books, named him Keller which is Gaelic for “little companion” which was perfect for him.
JK

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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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@hopeful33250 Yep, that’s what I am doing. Sometimes I try to see if I can convince him but he took a good part of caring for our dog and he does not want that again, plus having a pet does impact traveling, not that we travel that frequently.
This is a picture of him when he was a puppy, at our lake cabin with our son who was about 12 at the time.
JK

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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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@contentandwell

I’m glad to hear from someone who values their marriage relationship. A lot of people would get the dog and tell their partner to deal with it. I understand that there are situations when the love of a pet would be a much better alternative to the brokenness of a marriage. I’m with you on this one. Maybe a nice stuffed animal would be a helpful compromise. They don’t bark, have accidents, don’t chew up your brand new shoes, or make demands on your time or budget.

Jim

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@contentandwell @jimhd , Hi guys, I’m so sorry you can’t get a dog. I took a chance when I got Maggie that’s for sure. But this was after watching my husband befriend and grab every kitten my daughter ever brought home. I guess I’m a dog person at heart. I figured it was my turn for me and my very own Golden. I didn’t feel I was risking this marriage too much. Love to you all, Judy

REPLY
@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?

Jump to this post

@contentandwell

Aw – so sweet! Was your son his favorite in the family?

Teresa

REPLY
@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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@jimhd Jim, a stuffed animal just does not do it for me. I would even be happy I think with a bunny! My daughter had two adorable dwarf bunnies that she would bring here, Virgil and Beulah. Bunnies have a language of their own and she read up on it and could interpret what they were saying by their expressions. She unfortunately had to find a new home for them because they started chomping on the woodwork in her apartment. She now has a little “rescue” dog.
JK

REPLY
@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?

Jump to this post

@hopeful33250 Teresa, I think he was. We bought the dog for our daughter, she was going through difficult time, lots of angst, but the dog really took to our son, probably because he was more active although he never gave him care like bathing him. The poor little guy, he would be visibly depressed when our son and daughter left for college. It would take about two weeks for him to get back to his cheerful self.
JK

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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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Hi Jim, @jimhd

Thanks for explaining the difference between service dogs and therapy dogs. I thought the terms were used interchangeably – but now I know the difference.

Can you tell us what type of training a therapy dog gets?

Teresa

Teresa

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