Dogs, Unconditional Love and Mental Health

I read in the recent weekend paper where our local animal shelter had registered an alarming increase in the number of dogs and other pets being handed in because the owners could no longer keep them.

Skyrocketing pressures on the family budget appear to have claimed yet another victim: The family pet. A spokesperson for the animal shelter said that the people who were surrendering their animals claimed that the increased cost of living was making it impossible to pay for the costs involved in keeping a pet.

As well as an increase in the number of animals being dumped, there was also a reported decrease in the number of animals being adopted, presumably for the same reason. Several people were quoted as saying that they couldn’t afford to put their pets into a kennel when they went on vacation.

I know that mortgage payments and rental increases are seriously impacting on the wellbeing of parents, families, and single dwellers. Yet surrendering your pet to save a few dollars seems like false economy to me. Pets provide so many positive aspects to both the individual and the family that disposing of them in times of economic and emotional hardship may not be the wisest move to make.

Merely stroking a pet has been shown to lower blood pressure and reduce stress in experimental trials. You can sit and tell them your troubles and they will listen even if you do not receive a verbal answer. You will never be greeted when you come home after a hard day as enthusiastically by any human as you would a pet. There is no other permanent and reliable source of unconditional love than that which a pet can provide. Humans, sadly, are not so reliable.

Pets are excellent teachers of responsibility to your children, something that is much needed in a world where many children believe they are entitled to every whim. In a world of frankly overweight children, the family dog also provides an enjoyable form of exercise.

Maybe it’s preferable to keep your older model cell phone, not trade up to the latest plasma, keep the holidays closer to home and appreciate the little things in life. Like your loyal mental health nurse – the family pet.

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