In doing research for this blog post, I found many studies supporting that pets are a huge part of the healing process, physically and emotionally. Pets can help lower our blood pressure, thus reducing heart disease risk as well as decreasing stress levels. While it is important to take your prescribed medications, it also seems that puppies are a cuter solution than the emergency room. (Obviously, you should still go to the emergency room for emergencies!)
Many people that have pets and treat them as family feel a sense of purpose and belonging. This allows humans to feel like life is worth living, and to your pet, you are their entire world. Pets will love you unconditionally, not only because you feed them and give them shelter, but because you care about them and show love for them.
When we surround ourselves with happy and positive people or animals, we become happier and healthier from our surroundings. Dogs have historically been brought in after crisis and after traumatic events (i.e. school shootings and natural disasters) in order to keep people calm and thinking positive. Recently, universities have been hiring companies to bring puppies into study halls to help students reduce their anxiety and regain emotional stability during finals week.
As humans, touch is a very important language that we all speak. We forget sometimes the power of a hug, a cuddle, or even just a pat on the back. Even just sitting and petting your dog will improve your psychological state, and they love it, too! Additionally, be active with your pets. In Portland, it’s easy to take them places and include them in our hobbies. Car rides? They love those! Hiking? They need to release energy, too! Errands? They love new smells, and most places (without food) will allow your pet inside!
Most of this post has been about dogs, but any pet that you love will help you! Cats, bunnies, birds, snakes, anything! Obviously puppies and adult dogs are generally more willing to jump all over you and go to public places; but maybe you have a cat like that, too. Whatever pet you have and love, make them a part of your family, daily life, and mental well-being.
One last thing: It is completely normal to talk to your pet. Sometimes we don’t want to divulge all of our secrets to friends and family, and maybe your therapy session isn’t for a few days. Your pet will never judge you and will always love you unconditionally. Whether you talk to them about the weather, your job, or something deep and personal, they will just sit there and wag their tail because they see that their human is talking to them. Honestly, I talk to my dog throughout the day!
I always bring my dog, Guinness, to sessions (unless people are allergic or fearful of animals). He is a calming presence and is always happy to receive love and affection from anyone who walks in the door. With a smiling face and wagging tail, clients’ faces light up and it seems that they immediately feel less stress.
Adopt here, and many other places around Portland and Oregon: http://www.oregonhumane.org
Gianna Russo-Mitma, M.S., Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist Intern
(702) 706-1811 - Practicing in Portland, OR