Did you grow up with pets?
According to Animal Planet, the benefits of pet ownership include "physical, mental and emotional improvements from enhancing social skills to decreasing a person's risk of heart attack".
A study at the University of New York in Buffalo found that when performing a stressful task, people experienced less stress when their pet was present than when a family member, spouse or or close friend was nearby.
According to the Center for Disease Control in the USA having a dog around lowers blood pressure.
There are plenty of other studies which I won't go into here, but the bottom line is, it seems that having a pet is good for our health.
Yesterday my daughter said to me that she gets separation anxiety when she's away from the dogs. We've only had them living with us permanently for 9 months (although we've known them all their lives) but they're already deeply embedded in the family.
Prior to their arrival the kids had grown up with our beautiful blond Labrador Max. If you've been following my blog for the last 7 years, you'll know that Max-the-hip-gyrating-lab was a very loving and integral part of our family who passed away in 2013. His death created a huge hole in the family that has only just now been filled with the arrival of our new fur friends.
As an only child I relied fairly heavily on my pets for companionship growing up. I remember racing home from school each day to spend time with my cat, Tibbles. Tibbles was acquired when my friend's cat had an unplanned litter of kittens. From the first night he came home, I started to understand the importance of caring for others. He was my best friend and I was absolutely devastated when he got sick and died from "cat aids" when I was at uni.
We'd also had dogs when I was little. The first, Trixie, died from a snake bite when I was about 8 years old. I will always remember the day because we'd gone horse riding on a country road and she'd disappeared for a bit. We turned around to head back home and found her walking aimlessly. She was weak and frothing at the mouth. My dad picked her up and carried her home on the horse, but snake bites work quickly when it comes to canines and she didn't survive.
The dog I remember most was Toby. He was a big heavy chested dog with floppy ears and a strong thumping tail who was white with black spots. He was the gentlest kindest dog you'd ever meet but with a deep bark which was perfect for his guard dog duties. We'd taken him on board after my mum had discovered a "peeping tom" preying on our house while my dad was travelling for work. He was with us a long time and I think it was cancer and old age that got him in the end.
At the age of 25 when I bought my first house I got myself a rabbit. Gizmo Thumper Bunny Rabbit was house trained to use a kitty litter box and lived his entire life roaming the house and the backyard without the need to be locked in a hutch. He ended up having a series of fits that ultimately put him into a coma and I had to let him go.
As I type this I realise there's a lot of death and mourning in this post. Pets don't live as long as we do and in my 47 years on this planet I've cried a lot over the death of my fur friends. My children have also experienced death this way with Max, two guinea pigs and a rabbit.
But as they say, it's better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all.
Pets teach us unconditional love. They teach us how to be unselfish, forgiving and playful. They give us something to race home to and encourage us to jump out of bed each day.
Pets don't plan for tomorrow or get hung up on yesterday. They live in the moment and have this amazing ability to show us how to live in the now.
Until this post I hadn't given it much thought, but it seems that for as long as I can remember I've had a pet in my life. Which apparently is a good thing, because pets help us to age positively*.
Did you grow up with pets?
Do you have pets in your life right now?
If you could have any pet, what would it be?
* Can I just say that when dogs rip washing off the line, or tear up the trampoline netting, or chew through the garden hose, or perhaps get into the garbage and scatter it around the yard, the whole helping us to age positively thing goes out the window. But our new fur friends have managed to settle in nicely and I haven't sworn or screamed at them for at least four months. While it was touch and go there for a while, I can safely say that no dogs were harmed in the writing of this post.