Celebrate the Joy Pets Bring to Our Lives

As I’ve visited patients in their homes over the years, three related thoughts have occurred to me: 

1) How lucky I’ve been to not only meet so many wonderful people, but also to meet their wonderful companions.

2) How thoroughly enriching life with these animals has been for those who live with them.                                               

3) How animals can, in fact, be some of our best teachers.

Study Backed Benefits

Considerable research has been conducted on the role of pets in the lives of older adults. Since I’m writing on National Pet Day—created in 2006 “to celebrate the joy pets bring to our lives”—I will highlight the relational aspects identified in one such study: attachment, unconditional love, and interdependence

Our Pets Are Our Family

I’ve had ample opportunity to observe these aspects up close. There is little question that some of our patients regard their pets as dear to them as any other family member. These bonds may grow even deeper in the face of the losses our patients commonly experience. The unconditional love that is also clearly evident can take on great significance when so much else has revealed itself as conditional. 

My Personal Connection

I myself was fortunate enough to spend the last few days with Brandy (pictured above), who came into our lives as a rescue animal from an existing rescue situation. It had been some time since her last stay and I was struck by the age-related changes she is going through. Hip dysplasia is affecting her mobility and while she was previously quite reactive, her bark and bite have nearly vanished. Observing Brandy aging in her singular and graceful way in the midst of others’ aging (including my own) is both poignant and instructive and reaffirms our shared creaturely nature.

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