serve many important purposes and play many significant roles in our lives. For many of us, they are family members for whom we provide love and care and from whom we receive unconditional love and acceptance. Companion animals also assist in therapy (both physical and emotional) for human beings; they serve as seeing-eye dogs for the blind, act as ears for the hearing impaired and assist people with other types of disabilities. Others assist police and firefighters. Some provide water rescue. Some help search for and rescue human beings who are victims of natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes, and fires. As we all know, many dogs were involved in the discovery and rescue of victims of such man-made disasters as the bombing of the World Trade Center, Oklahoma Federal Building, etc. Therapy animals also provided much needed comfort and healing for many of the victims of these disasters.
Children, as well as adults have always shared a special bond with animals. Dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, horses, among many others, become their brothers, sisters and best friends. Both children and adults trust and confide in their animal companions. A pet supplies security and love, and
it doesn’t judge or criticize. It is loyal and stays close and supportive during hard times. The animal friend is there for the child, no matter what the trouble or how badly he or s
e may have behaved. When a child cares for a pet a healthy sense of responsibility and self-esteem develop. For both children and adults pets fill our basic and fundamental need to love and nurture.
Animal companions provide physical and emotional well-being. The simple act of petting an animal friend has proven to be of significant physical and psychological benefit. His presence has a calming effect. Blood pressure is reduced. Hearbeat is improved. Resistance to disease is heightened and tension is decreased. Our animal companions reduce stress, fear and anger. Pets also decrease loneliness and depression.
We are most truly ourselves with our animal companions. There is no need to pretend to be someone or something we are not. We open up completely to animal friends. We make our pets our secret sharers. They liberate us from the shackles of the roles we believe society requires us to play. They provide us with unqualified love and acceptance in an otherwise demanding, judgmental and critical world. We are able to share and express our true selves without having to worry about our “image” or what others may think of us. We don’t need to defend our actions or feelings.
Animal companions teach us many things – they are not merely friends, but teachers, guides and even healers. They teach us to “live in the moment” and to enjoy each precious day instead of regretting things that may have happened in the past or fearing things that may take place in the future. They may teach us patience, loyalty, courage and gratitude. But most importantly, they teach and bring us the most precious gift life has to offer – the gift of unconditional LOVE.