Most people I know are dog people, I personally am a cat person. We have three cats; Tony Danza, Baxter, and Jane. Like many people I know, our animals are a part of our family. They play an integral role in our everyday life. I am greeted everyday by one (or all) of our cats when I get home, this can always turn a bad day better. I especially love it when they are around to snuggle on the couch and keep me company when I am home alone. I can tell my cats anything and know that they won’t tell a soul! A life without animals is no life for me.
I have a few friends who also share this type of companionship with their dogs. Through some of their roughest times in their lives; if you asked them what their biggest support was they will tell you that it was there dog. These animals that provide silent comfort and companionship are able to meet our very basic of human needs, the need to be loved.
The human-animal bond goes beyond just companionship; they can also take on the role of a teacher. I grew up on a farm with very few children around so the animals became my friends. On our farm we had sheep and sometimes after giving birth the mamma sheep could not feed their lambs. As a kid I often had to bottle feed the babies, this was my favorite job. At the time this was just something fun for me to do, but, looking back now, I can see that this taught me empathy and compassion. These skills have transferred into my role in working with children.
In my time working with Aim for Success I have heard many children talk passionately about their pets and how they have supported them in some of their hardest times. Studies have been shown to support this fact in indicating that pets help children grow socially, emotionally, and cognitively on many developmental levels.
In addition to cognitive growth pets also promote physical activity in both adults and children, whether it is walking your dogs or having an energetic backyard playmate.
You also see animals in the medical world frequently. Seeing Eye dogs help to provide freedom, confidence andindependence to the visually impaired. Animal assisted therapy is used to promote patients overall functioning. Just seeing an animal can help elicit happiness; as is the case with volunteer animals providing long term care residents with companionship.
Regardless of the animal type, size, or age they can provide children and adults with the attention and love they need to live a fulfilling and mentally healthy lifestyle.