As a veterinarian, I am consistently reminded of the important role animals play in the lives of the people who care for them. A well-mannered, responsive pet, whether it be a dog, cat, horse, pig or bird, may become the “best buddy” of a lonely child, the “baby” of an older couple or just the faithful companion of anyone who enjoys the unconditional love they provide.
This is known as the Human-Companion Animal Bond. As with many other aspects of life behavioral scientists have now named and are attempting to explore and explain what people have intuitively realized for generations—that owning and loving a pet can be good for our own emotional and physical well-being. Studies have shown a decrease in stress and blood pressure when a person relaxes while stroking a purring cat or lapdog or while watching fish swim in an aquarium. The responsibility an owner feels toward meeting the needs of a favored pet often keeps them active and concerned, whereas others who take care of only themselves tend to lead a less active life. I have known owners who because their veterinarian suggested they take their overweight dogs on daily walks have themselves lost weight.

The sense a pet caretaker receives when a jubilant pup dances and barks at the sight of its person is heart-warming and a boost to any persons’ self-esteem. Conversely, it has been shown that a person who abuses or tortures pets often becomes a danger to society itself when animals no longer satisfy their psychopathic tendencies.

Animals by and large bring out the best in people. They help us to demonstrate compassion, caring, and nurturing. I believe we can all agree that the world is a better place when such attitudes are fostered and demonstrated among the human population as well.

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