When I got sober in 1986, it took me a long time to learn how to feel comfortable in my own skin and even just be in my apartment by myself. Struggling with extreme depression and anxiety, it was very hard for me to learn how to be alone. I found a dog one Halloween that had been abused and was on the street and I took her in. I loved her companionship, but as she recovered I realized that she had too much of a play drive to be in the apartment all day while I was at work. She wound up being a great fit for the Atlantic City Police Department and went on to a new career and life with them. I got a puppy who was smaller and better suited to my lifestyle and I loved her dearly.
I’ve had several dogs since then (actually we currently have four!) and they’ve all been a consistent source of love, joy and amusement for our family.
Pets can be a great benefit to those who are struggling with chronic pain and mental health issues as well as the elderly. They often live alone and feel isolated.
Feelings of isolation can lead to many other physical and mental ailments. Deterioration of the physical body can be one of the first negative results of not getting out and socializing. However, mental deterioration in the form of panic, anxiety attacks, and depression can set in for someone who is not feeling well and is struggling with isolation. Those feelings can be eased with the company of a pet.
A Sense of Well Being
A person who owns a pet will have a better sense of well being, peace, and even a sense of vitality. A feeling that there is someone who needs caring for and tended to can make a big difference in one’s emotional health. As people age and begin to lose those who are close to them, they may lose a sense of purpose as well. Having a pet is a great way to get that sense of purpose back into their lives.
Even in the healthiest of families, there can be struggles with relationships. Your pet loves you unconditionally and without reservation. They don’t care if you’re having a bad day and are always happy to see you. Snuggling and playing with them provides great emotional and stress relieving benefits for you. On those days when you might not want to get out of bed, your dog’s happy tail wagging will provide you with a great incentive to get up and moving around. As a family dealing with multiple chronic conditions, our dogs provide a wonderful source of distraction and amusement in the midst of life’s craziness.
Social media can help us feel connected but sometimes it does just the opposite. Feeling alone is one of the worst things about being chronically ill or getting older, but a owning a pet can ease that sense of isolation. For instance, having a dog gives you a great reason to get out of the house as they need to be walked regularly, and you can always take them to a park, a pet store or a dog-friendly mall. That routine can you to stay sane. If a person is completely housebound, they might want to hire a dog walker to take the dog out a few times a day.
Any dog can provide companionship, but if you are disabled or have serious mental health issues you might want to investigate the possibility of a service dog. Some great informational sites to start with include:
- Delta Society
- Assistance Dogs International
- Canine Companions for Independence
- Guide Dogs of America
No matter how hopeless you might be feeling about your life, the unconditional love of a pet can lift your spirits, bring hope and even turn your life around.