Posted on 12th May, 2015: Let me set the record straight, especially for those of you who believe that animal companions are only good for aesthetic value. Scientific evidence has existed for years, and continues to grow every day, of how pets are teaching us to love unconditionally, handle emotional turbulence better and just be happier, healthier people, in general.
It turns out that that pets can not only steal your heart, they can also help fix it when it is broken!
A short lesson in pet history
Animals and human beings have co-existed as mutually beneficial companions, for tens of thousands of years now. In mid-2000s, archaeologists discovered a human skeleton from over 12,000 years ago, buried with its hand on the head of a skeleton of a six-month old wolf pup, in Israel. Before that there has been evidence of cat domestication from 7,500 BC discovered in a Neolithic village in Cyprus.
“The bond between animals and humans is part of our evolution, and it’s very powerful,” Dr. Ann Berger, a physician and researcher at the NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, told the News In Health website. No relationship between living beings would survive the onslaught of time and evolution, if it weren’t mutually beneficial.
Healing a broken heart
Heartbreak is no longer just a sorry metaphor, lyrical stuff of sappy love songs. The American Heart Association says that the ‘broken heart syndrome’ is an actual physical disorder where the body suffers a surge of stress hormones, usually, in response to the death of a loved one, ill-health and a life-changing circumstance such as losing employment or the end of a long-term relationship. Apparently, it affects women more than it affects men and chest pain, shortness of breath and irregular heartbeat are some of the symptoms.
We would all agree that separation after a long period of marriage or being together in a relationship is a painful, heart wrenching experience. In fact, so typical are the symptoms of this ailment, across human beings from varied caste, class, creed or colour, that there exist films, books, agony aunt advice, web how-tos, music, medication and even help from the occult sciences, to help one deal with a heart break. The Holmes-Rahe Stress Inventory, a self-study survey designed to help you gauge your susceptibility to stress-related health disorders, counts divorce and marital separation from spouse in the top three most stress-inducing, social readjustment-requiring life events.
Puppy M.D. to the rescue
On the bright side, numerous studies have investigated and found that pets give us physical, mental and emotional support. They become a member of the family, to care for, when you are lonely. They teach you the simple truth about unconditional love. They help us feel safe and wanted, which is ideal for when nursing the feelings of rejection and loneliness. Your pet pooch or kitty will be there for you, even when life seems grim and hopeless
Earlier last month, Kristen Levine from Pet Living, wrote about the experiences of two women – Beth Noska from Dallas, Texas and Candace Canty from Chicago, Illinois – who found comfort in the companionship of their dogs after their human partners walked out on them. Just a few days before her second wedding anniversary, Noska’s husband moved out of their house. But she wasn’t entirely alone, her two dogs kept her sane throughout the ordeal. “I threw a huge pity party in my honor,” she tells Levine in a touching letter, “but I only had two others show up: my dogs, Big Bubba and Little Ernie… They let me hang on to my desire to be needed and wanted. They taught me how to play harder and relax better. And they continue to help me be more whole again each day.”
As for Canty, her dogs Clover and Guiness were the only ‘close friends’ privy to her divorce. She couldn’t bring herself to admit the failure of her relationship and hence, couldn’t reach out to anyone for support during a very difficult time. But thanks to her two puppies, Canty did alright. “They were the only ‘people’ with me. Without them, it would’ve been very lonely. They’ve helped make the transition easier,” Canty tells Levine, “We get out. We walk. There are activities to go to. You meet so many more people when you have a dog.”
Apart from their furry companionship, wet noses and loving licks, pets offer you more assistance to bounce back from psychological stress.
Stress busting bubaloos
Scientific studies have, time and again, proven that pet animals can help improve cardiovascular health. In fact, one such scientific explorations showed that in the sample group that was tested, those that had pets had lower stress-triggered blood pressure problems than even those who were on ACE inhibitors and other related blood pressure medicine.
Exercise is more fun
Numerous studies have revealed that dog owners get more exercise and hence, release more endorphins, or happy hormones, in their bloodstream as a result of this. In a New in Health funded study, it was found that those who walked their dogs regularly were fitter and faster.
Meet and greet over pets
You don’t need scientific studies to tell you that walking your dog or having a well-groomed cat at home leads to more conversations and social connect, than when you don’t. You just need to have ever walked out to a park or on a street with a puppy in tow and counted the number of strangers who strike up a conversation with you. As opposed to walking alone. And if you still need scientific research, that exists too.
If you are one of those (unlucky) people, who cannot have a pet because of their circumstances, you can get your dose of furry love at the local animal shelter. Volunteer your time and effort every week or month, as often as you can manage, and you will come away a more loving, lovable and emotionally-stable individual. Trust me.