Pet Therapy: The benefits of companionship

Did you know that pets can provide great companionship? For many pet owners, furry and feathered friends play a major role in our lives. They can be a source of companionship, acceptance, responsibility, service, and love, especially for people with disability.

Learning responsibility

Pets can teach us important life skills, like taking care of someone else’s needs. They show us the value of responsibility and routine, whether it’s feeding them, grooming them or taking them for walks. Service animals, such as specially trained dogs, are skilled at helping in your time of need. Dr. Ann Berger who works at the NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland said, “Dogs are very present. If someone is struggling with something, they know how to sit there and be loving.”

For those who have mental health issues, pets can provide constant reminders to engage in daily tasks, fostering a sense of purpose and routine.

Bringing joy and companionship

Nothing compares to the feeling of coming home to a loyal companion. They are a helping hand (or paw) in a time when one might feel alone. They can be a best friend, always there for us, ready to listen and provide comfort. Pets don’t judge us; they just love us for who we are. According to the U.S. National Institute of Health, pets can provide more than just unconditional love. They can also decrease stress, improve heart health, and even help children with the development of their emotional and social skills. Take Grant, who’s an Endeavour Foundation client and keen painter, and his bird, Swifty, for example - they’re inseparable! Swifty has helped Grant to feel more confident and outgoing, showing us just how special the bond between a person and their pet can be. Grant takes great care of Swifty and together they are the best of friends.

Service animals

Service animals are animals that are specially trained to assist people with disability, such as physical disabilities like vision loss or hearing loss, neurological conditions, and mental illness. They are trained to help with everyday tasks and are very skilled at their jobs, being able to open and close doors, draw attention in times of need, guide people and even operate lights to assist in day-to-day lives of their people.

Animals like Alex the therapy bunny can be there by people’s side to keep an eye on them and the surrounding, making sure we’re safe and comfortable. Their intelligence and skills make our lives easier and more enjoyable.

Service animals work extremely hard, understanding the importance of their tasks. Their days are filled with happiness as they receive a lot of attention and receive constant stimulation. Not every animal can become a service animal, but those who do love their job, with some even leaping into their harnesses when the day’s set to begin!

My personal experience of having a pet

I, Lucas, personally love having a dog as a companion. I cannot imagine life without my dog, Charlie. Often when I am fighting a losing battle against my mental health, Charlie is the one that gives me purpose. He can be the motivation for me to get out of bed in the morning because he needs to be fed and taken outside.

Animals, depending on the type and breed, need constant exercise to keep them active. They can often motivate their humans to leave the house and take them for a walk. Or at least my dog Charlie motivates me. Even on the hottest days, his smile is my reason to keep on going.

What if you cannot have a pet?

There are other options if you cannot afford a pet, live somewhere where they do not permit pets, or if you are concerned about your capacity to care for a pet. Portsmouth Hospitals University NHS Trust suggests that you could potentially spend time with pets of friends or family. There may also be a rescue centre that needs volunteers or temporary foster carers.

Pets are incredible companions for people with disability. They teach us valuable lessons about love, acceptance and responsibility while providing vital support for people who need it. These animals teach us patience and kindness for one another, and the world is certainly a better place for having them in it.

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