The importance of pets, improving quality of life

Adam Davis – Staff Writer

Have you ever heard someone say, “It’s just a pet?” Did you have to put on a tough exterior when your four-legged friend died? I think we tend to trivialize relationships with our animal companions. Perhaps we feel they should hold less significance than relationships with fellow humans.

Faust was a few years old when I moved to Clarion. The German Shepherd was skittish and wary of newcomers. However, in time he accepted me as part of the family. I could go into the fenced in backyard and play with him, something few could do.

I took a large part in his care over the following five years. He had to check on me when I came home from work or school as well. He would smell me over to see where I had been, lean on me for a moment, then carry on with his dog-business.

His death was sudden. He was active the previous night, and my roommate said he was fine when he left for work in the morning. A neighbor had noticed him motionless in the yard and informed me.

He had no signs of pain or discomfort. It is as if he had just laid down and never got back up. This did not make his sudden passing any easier on all of us around the house. It is still painful writing this nearly two weeks later.

Science has provided evidence that pets improve the quality of our lives. Therapy animals have assisted in patient recovery. But it is not only the human that benefits. The reward center in a dog’s brain lights up in response to praise from their human companion.

We share a bond with our pets that is both unique and similar to interpersonal relationships. Having a pet in some ways can be like having a child. Dogs are completely dependent on us not only for food and shelter, but social support. Cats appear to be more independent, but they still like us around. We are just more like another cat to them.

It should come as no surprise that the death of a pet is devastating. These critters share a substantial part of our lives. Do not ever let anyone downplay the importance of that four-legged family member.

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