The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

February 9, 2014

How much do I love .... my pet?

The Commercial-News

— I recently received solicitation from a company wanting me to subscribe to a publication for professionals in my field. One article’s title caught my eye; it was supposed to discuss a subject we should be educating our clients about. In a broad overview. it discussed how I needed to be telling folks why they should not love their pets too much. After reading about a third of the article I have to confess I lost interest. No thank you, I will pass on that subscription.

I am sure we have all shaken our heads at times about a family member or friend, “They are nuts about their dog!” or “You do WHAT for your dog?” and so forth. While agreeing or disagreeing on how we choose to raise our four-legged family members.

How did we get here? In the 1950s or earlier, you would rarely hear the words “cat” and “veterinarian” in the same sentence. Cats had jobs on the farms and in the alleys, keeping the rodents under control. Dogs were slightly more important in their duties of protection, hunting and herding.

The view was much different then and has changed immensely today. We have urbanized and brought our animals with us, for better or worse. The retail world has followed suit and now just about anything the imagination can dream of for any pet is available. You can now take your critters to places no one would have thought of in years past.

Even more wonderfully, animal health care has progressed to levels equal to human care and as diverse with alternatives as we have for ourselves, too.

Many a fine study resides in cyber space about the phenomenon of caring for our pets like we do, but it really adds up to some very simple things. Pets have the ability to love unconditionally. I have even seen abused pets stay loyal to an abusive or negligent owner. To have someone in our lives these days who is steady and true like that is harder to find, but needed more now than ever. We live in a time where we are “on” all the time, Thank you … technology!

Our pets, however, don’t share that lifestyle. No cell phones, tablets or remote controls for them, though I am sure my dog and cat practice daily with the can opener while I am gone. My pets are fortunate not to have thumbs at this point in evolution. Providing for our pet’s basic needs falls into some of life’s simple functions; walking the dog, petting the cat, feeding them, brushing, etc. — these are the things that force us to slow down and spend a moment peacefully. Unless you’re trying to brush a cat like mine, then it’s more like a fight-or-flight moment!

One of these studies I mentioned discusses the health benefits at great length. Our hearts in particular are kept much healthier with a pet in residence. Ohio State University’s Ross Heart Hospital has a brochure for clients about how a pet can be “Heart Healthy.” It discusses how sharing your life with a pet can reduce headaches and loneliness while increasing fulfillment and quality of life for all ages.

The different organizations and programs using the emotional benefits pets give us can be found in all of our communities. Many of our children with educational special needs to kids with medical issues or emotional problems have benefited greatly from pets helping them. Your local library will have information about those programs available in your community. Nursing homes worldwide have seen improvements in patients when a pet was in residence.

The many programs where dogs are employed to help our veterans with physical and emotional needs are wonderfully successful. Many of the humane societies and veteran agencies have information regarding contact information for individuals interested in more information for a veteran in need.

The casual activity of petting your dog causes the blood pressure to lower and the mind to slow its race. That simple gesture can actually give you a boost emotionally. The fast pace we keep now and the demands on us daily cannot go unchecked without negative effects. The joy from spending time with our pets for a few minutes to a few hours cannot be bought at the store or found on the Internet. We all need to stop and breathe daily — what a wonderful way to do just that!

It is no wonder that we have a tendency to want to indulge our pets in fanciful ways and spend our hard-earned money on the extra frills available for our pets. The heart doesn’t lie — loving a pet does amazing things for us from our heads to our toes.

Heidi Foil of Muncie  is certified in western herbal veterinary medicine and is a canine nutritionist. She’s been involved in animal care for more than 30 years.