When we asked you, our readers, to tell us how pets help keep you healthy and happy, we received many responses.
You told us about the exercise, stress relief, fun and laughter, and more seriously, even service animals who protect your life. Read on to learn why these members tout the benefits of pet ownership. Then watch for more pet stories in next month’s issue.
Please note that the following tips from members do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Blue Cross and Blue Shield. These tips are intended as general information only. Please consult your physician for specific advice.
I have a Diabetic Alert Dog named Boo. I live alone, so I need help at night. Boo wakes me up if my sugar goes too low or too high. He will usually let me know before it gets too critical. He also alerts me to take my medicine.
I don’t think I could live without him. I believe he has truly saved my life on several occasions.
— Donna K.
My wife and I walk our two rescue dogs twice daily for a total of 1.5 to 2 miles. This gets us some additional exercise as well as time to talk about what’s going on in our lives.
— Jeff E.
My pets are happy to see me no matter what. They know when I need love and love on me when I am sick. I ride my horse to relax. If I’m petting two dogs at once while watching TV, I’ll realize that I’m so relaxed I don’t even notice what’s on television.
— Marla S.
My cat Minty is so therapeutic. (I think she keeps my blood pressure down.) Her minty green eyes and soft fur are soothing and help me to relax. Having her around reminds me that I am not alone and that I am loved. I have a little non-human friend that I can cuddle in my arms, give love and receive love. She has made my life better by bringing me joy, love, companionship, better health and purpose.
— Jackie L.
I love my cats, who are the cure to my Illness! I suffer from three autoimmune diseases and suffer from chronic pain daily. I take countless medications and go through infusions. My cats keep me mobile. They bring me joy by the way they play around or just by sitting on my lap and purring themselves to sleep. They relax me and always come to my rescue when I have a not-so-great day. My cats give me mental and physical therapy, but mostly unconditional LOVE.
— Irene M.
Following a serious car accident, I gained about 70 pounds and was approaching 200. I started to lose some weight on my own, but then got my best friend, a dog named Bea. I walk her about 3.5 miles a day and am 60 pounds lighter. I look forward to getting up every morning to take our first long walk of the day at 5 a.m. — about 2.2 miles. My leg was also seriously injured in the accident and was weak following numerous surgeries. The walks have helped strengthen my leg.
— Janine A.
My 87-year-old mother has Alzheimer’s/dementia. When she moved in to my sister’s home just over four years ago, my sister’s dog became her beloved companion. Cali, a miniature pinscher, sits snuggled with my mom from first thing in the morning until bed time.
Over time, Mom has progressively lost her memory, her ability to walk without assistance, and she’s now losing her vision. Cali is her couch companion, giving her love and affection. Cali makes Mom feel needed. The dog also helps to calm her during moments of confusion or fear.
Petting this tiny furry friend and receiving loads of kisses and love perk up Mom’s spirits, and Cali is her favorite topic of conversation. I believe the life of most any senior, house-bound or lonely person can benefit in quite special ways from the powerful loving bond that can uniquely be formed with a dog.
— Lori R.
My German Shepherd, Edward Cullen, is such a sweetheart. I have a very stressful job in the multimedia universe that can, most of the time, leave me tired, frustrated and ready to bite everyone.
But I hold off and think about my dog. How I can’t wait to get home to that sweet silly face. He makes me smile and laugh at the silly things he does. When I was sick, he laid in bed with me and licked my face. It was his way of making me feel better.
He is the best medicine, the best helper and my best friend. He makes me the richest person in the world everyday by just being himself.
— Barbara T.
Having a pet makes your life so much happier, especially when you raise them with your children. Your kids can learn responsibility and an unconditional love from animals. When the kids are gone, it is never lonely because your pets are a constant reminder of the love they gave your children and continue to give you. They become a part of your family, and as silly as it may seem, they are also your children.
— Amanda A.
I have four dogs. I get up every morning at 3:45 a.m. to hit the streets walking two of them. We put in over 16 miles a week. We walk at a fast-enough pace that it would be considered aerobic activity. I would not go walking that early in the day if I didn’t have 110 pounds of dogs with me.
Also, they make me laugh with their crazy antics. If I’m feeling down, I get great pleasure from hugging and petting them and talking to them. They always listen. And finally, they get so excited when I get home, it’s obvious they love me.
— Nancy C.
Pets improve the quality of lives in so many ways. First, there is the unconditional love and excited happiness you see as soon as you walk in the door. Who else is SO glad to see you upon every return meeting?
Then there is the companionship of having another with you, to talk to, to cuddle. They also feel your emotions and will try to comfort you when you are sad, lonely or hurting.
And on the practical end — they give you a reason to get up and out every day. Depression is lessened when you know you have to focus on taking care of another, and you must get out of bed.
Then there is the exercise, fresh air and socialization. How many of us know our neighbor’s dog’s name and not the owner’s? Pets draw others in so they can share the happiness also.
Most importantly — pets bring us love.
— Kathy F.
My daughter has suffered from major depressive disorder since the seventh grade. She is graduating high school this year. When she is upset or really depressed, she pets her dog Annabelle to calm herself. The dog knows when my daughter is upset. Annabelle licks her to remind her that she loves her and cares.
— Tammy E.
My dog Hazel loves getting on the treadmill with me. When I am sitting on the couch too long, she makes me get up and walk on the treadmill.
She also knows when I am sad and nuzzles up to comfort me. Most of all, every day when I get home she and Xan happily greet me at the door and give me lots of love and kisses.
— Rinna D.
Source: Dog ownership and the risk of cardiovascular disease and death – a nationwide cohort study, Scientific Reports, 2017