• Pets Help Your Health!

  • by Danny McGuffin

As my parents have aged and my brother and I left the home, they have pretty much been on their own. No arguing in the house between my brother and I, dinner is usually just them sitting watching the latest headlines from the news and basically being very solitary. That changed this past month when, while watching my daughter on the rare day off from school. They were watching a local morning station here in San Diego and across the screen came a picture of a dog that was at the local rescue shelter.

Her name was KoKo and almost immediately my father fell in love with her. She was a small dog, no idea how old she was, but they were assuming she was around 2 years of age. My father looked over at my daughter and asked her if they should go get her. My daughter, always liking new things, shook her head vigorously up and down, before I had even come by to pick her up at the end of my work day, my parents were proud owners of a 2 year old dog named KoKo.

Knowing that once that door closed and my daughter and I left the house, they would be by themselves again, it did warm me a little bit that they now had a third person in their family. I knew they would take care of the little dog as if it were a princess.

The benefits of pet ownership, especially at an advanced age, have many health benefits associated with it that can make having a pet incredibly beneficial. While doing research for this article, I found something rather funny. Apparently when people speak to normal people, their blood pressure rises to almost hypertensive levels. Which makes me fully appreciate it when my brother refuses to speak with me because he tells me his heart can’t take it. In contrast, when people speak to their pets, the blood pressure remains the same, or in some cases will actually lower when resting. People also tend to touch their pets, which have shown a reduction in stress and tension.

With KoKo in their lives my parents have also created a fairly structured schedule in regards to eating and sleeping since they know that KoKo needs to go use the restroom at a specific time in the mornings, afternoons and evenings. So they have started eating breakfast, lunch and dinner at very regular times instead of just eating whenever they want to.

The added psychological affect that having a pet gives is that the pet owner feels that something is dependent upon them, so they will go out of their way to appease that person, giving them a sense of being needed and wanted. Pet owners tend to live longer than non-pet owners. This may come from a sense of need/want, or it may also be from the added health benefits associated with reduction in stress and also the movement factor.

My mother usually goes on 3-5 mile walks every morning. With KoKo by her side, she has increased her daily walks from 3-5 miles to 4-6 miles since she goes by the lake somewhat near their home so KoKo can bark at the ducks. My mother has really enjoyed KoKo’s company in the mornings. My father has her sleep on his lap while reading in the afternoons. KoKo has been a lifesaver to say the least when it comes to my parents. She is spoiled beyond belief and rightfully so.

For more information about getting a pet, please contact your local rescue shelter. There are millions of dogs around the country that are looking for homes, one of them will be right for you.