Much More Than Just a Friend In history there has always been the phrase, “man and his best friend”. This symbolizes the special bond shared between a dog and his master. Man and canine have been attached to each other historically by the necessity of protecting the herds and hunting for food. Man and dog originally became paired as humans were considered hunters and gathers, and both dogs and humans we’re social creatures that hunted in the daytime. On the other side it has been found that dogs have a natural instinct to attach themselves to man.
This longstanding relationship has been roven as ” a dog Jawbone found in Iraq led scientists to believe that dogs were domesticated over 14,000 years ago’ (Lear). By human nature, we seek unconditional love. Animals help enhance people’s quality of life, not only by improving their physical well being, but also improving their mental state. Animals have been scientifically proven to decrease stress, lower blood pressure, decrease incidents of heart attacks, and improve overall mental health. There is evidence of simple facts such as, “People with pets have lower blood pressure in stressful situations than hose without pets” (Segal 1). Playing with a pet can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine, which calm and relax which then has pet owners have lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels (indicators of heart disease) than those without pets. Heart attack patients with pets survive longer than those without again supporting the evidence of the physical affects of owning a pet. Research states that pet owners over age 65 make 30 percent fewer visits to their doctors than those without pets. ” The physical benefits of owning a pet seem to be endless on so many levels (“The Benefits of Pet”).
Then there are a variety of examples that are connected to the mental and physical well being ofa pet owning individual. On a daily basis owners of dogs have been found to have lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels when compared to their non-dog owning counterparts. Interestingly enough, studies have included an even match with patients evenly matched for weight, diet, and smoking habits. The study progresses with the participants taking stress tests and physical examinations. The patients who were dog/pet owners, or who were in the presence of n animal demonstrated lower heart rates and blood pressure during the test (O’Connor).
The integration on animals in various forms of treatment has had an overwhelming response of shortened recovery time from children to the elderly. Most would not think that the companion of an animal may help a person physically but in many ways it does both directly and indirectly. Dogs were initially used in a mental health facility in the 1700s, and then again by the American Red Cross in military convalescent care after World War II. The Children’s Hospital of Orange County stablished one of the nation’s first, and leading pet therapy programs.
This hospital became one of only a few hospitals in the nation to offer such services. Currently, only fifty hospitals offer pet therapy and this is a surprisingly low number considering the proven medical benefits. However, in this instance the pets used to assist in the recovery were only used with young/pediatric patients. The therapy dogs and their owners aid children in the medical and surgical wards of the hospital, as well as in the physical, occupational, and speech therapy departments. (“Patients Appreciate Pet Partner”).
The unconditional care and love given by these dogs not only raised the spirits of the sick children but it also provided time where they could escape from the daily treatments and life of living in a hospital There is also statistical data supporting the many benefits of pets and their affect on the elderly. For example therapeutic horses have been shown to have a positive impact on many individuals with a variety of disorders. ” Anna suffered a stroke and was physically sound in every way except for her speech. She could only utter one word, and then 0 seconds to a minute would pass before she could say another.
But when leading her around on Lucky, I looked back at Anna and asked how she liked the ride. She said, ‘l like it Just fine. This is the first time IVe ever been on a horse! ‘ I nearly fell over! ” (Barnard 2) “The Human-Animal Bond may be defined as the relationship between people, animals and their environment” (“The Human-Animal Bond”). Clearly these examples above show that no matter the age of the person, animals will have a positive effect on the quality and quickness of the healing process. Additionally, pets elp keep their owners in shape as well as assist the physically and mentally challenged.
To have a dog means added responsibility such as walking, lifting, and physical grooming ofa pet, which supplies daily physical activity. Physical activity leads to overall improved health with leads to fewer visits to the doctor for minor health issues (“Why Man’s Best Friend Is Man’s Best Friend”). These are all common movements that a physical therapist would require of their patients that can be reinforced in the home “off hours” keeping the patient strong and moving. In one tory, a dog sits for hours caring for a mentally and physically disabled person while enduring immense pain but not whining due to not wanting to upset her. [V]anZante realized she had been parked on Max’s tail the entire time. Max hadn’t complained at all. ‘He was in pain, clearly, but he seemed to know that she had special needs, so he just sat through it,”(Carmichael 1). It is a heartfelt story that illustrates how dogs aid in the support of the handicapped. Throughout the nation, there are therapeutic riding programs design to work with physically or mentally challenged individuals to mprove their physical strength as well as a compassion for another creature.
UpReach, located in Derry, is a non-profit organization, which works with children and adults with the interaction with horses. The program is designed to improve the physical, emotional, and psychological development of these individuals. Research has found that the walking motion of the horse imitates movement of the human body. Many of the children have difficulty with gross motor skills, and riding moves the muscles in their backs and buttocks, which helps with the improvement of these motor skills. Grooming, petting, and feeding of the horses incorporate fine motor skills. The community they (UpReach) serve includes, but is not limited to, people with the following challenges: Cerebral Palsy, Traumatic Brain Injury, Autism Spectrum Disorders, Learning Disabilities, Multiple Sclerosis, Muscular Dystrophy, Visual or Hearing Impaired, Intellectual Disabilities, Down Syndrome, Sensory Integration Processing Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Youth-at- Risk” (http://www. upreachtrc. org). Patty Sexton, a volunteer at the UpReach Program of New Hampshire commented, “l have seen huge improvements while I have been here this past year.
When I began, the therapist and I had to hold/position the young client the entire time. Unable to sit unassisted in the beginning, ne now sits rather well independently. The therapist spends a great deal of time alternating positions; sitting forward, riding backwards, sitting side-ways. These changes work to develop different muscles… ” Personal stories are written all over the world of how animals have physically changed a person’s life. Pets have been found to decrease depression, increase self-esteem, and give individuals a sense of control.
This area as endless research in support of the positive affects animals can have on a person. “Pet owners are less likely to suffer from depression than those without pets” (Segal 1). According toa new study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, pets offer the same emotional benefits as human friendship. Current research at the Miami University and St. Louis University surveyed 217 people looking at variables such as depression, loneliness, illness, self-esteem, and activity-levels.
Individuals who had pets scored higher on all aspects of the survey and were found o have overall higher self-esteem and less loneliness. Another study was administered to look at dog owners and how a pet filled their social needs. The authors write, “… to the extent that their dogs fulfilled needs related to belongingness, self-esteem, meaningful existence, and control, owners enjoyed a range of better outcomes (i. e. , less depression, less loneliness, greater self-esteem, greater happiness, and less perceived stress)” (“The Psychological Benefits of Owning Pets”).
As told in the movie, War Horse, “We’ll be alright Joey. We’re the lucky ones, you and me. Lucky since the day I met you. This demonstrates the companionship between a man and his horse, and how it was the strength needed to overcome the hardship that the main character faced throughout the story. Pet owners with AIDS are far less likely to suffer from depression than those without pets. “The benefit is especially pronounced when people are strongly attached to their pets,” says researcher Judith Siegel, PhD (“What Are the Health Benefits of Owning a Pet”). There is also currently a program called PAWS for reading.
This program allows children to read aloud to a therapy dog or cat, or even a bunny in order to improve reading and ommunication skills. Children read individually to trained therapy pets (and their handlers) in schools, libraries, or other settings so that they can feel comfortable and confident. This has also been applied to children with fears of going to a dental procedure. After all, a dog will not correct them or make them feel awkward if they stumble, unconditional love and respect seems to apply in so many different ways and applies to a variety of pet therapy programs.
Animals have been proven to give mood stabilization and a feeling safety. A pet provides consistency to our lives. “[Pets ay well represent the lost relationship of the mother to infant; that is complete and total devotion, love and adoration. They can help bridge the developmental transition from infancy to childhood; from dependence to independence; from isolation to social integration at varying times and stages in our lives” (Friedmann 1). Caring for a pet can significantly affect daily routine and gives us something to look forward to each day.
All of this is an important factor to include when a person is dealing with grief and death. For example in the book, Marley and Me, Marley creates a sense of security in the household emotionally. There the three of us stayed, locked in our embrace of shared grief” (Grogan 49). Pets have been found to relax us and focus our attention away from our problems and worries. Research even suggests that a pet can be a better listener than most people.
Married women teel that they are listened to better by their dog than their husband, and husbands like to talk to their dog more than their wife since they never give their opinion. This constant communication helps people problem solve and work through difficult situations. If we look back to one of the original intentions of the dog, it would be for protection. As families traveled across dangerous terrain and encountered unknown predators, the dog has given a sense of safety. It is proven that pet owners feel less afraid of being a victim of crime while walking their dog or in their home.
I personally know my family has no desire to have a gun in their home since we feel confident in our dogs’ abilities to protect us. This leads toa home with less anxiety as well as one of our most important emotional stabilities of safety. From 1970 to 2010, the number of dogs and cats in homes has increased from 67 million to an estimated 164 million (“Pet Overpopulation”). The National Institutes of Health, with funding from Mars Pet Food, recently developed a to study to analyze the benefits of human-animal interaction.
The program, operated through the National Institute for Child Health and Human Development, offers scientists research grants to study the impact of animals on child development, in physical and psychological therapeutic treatments, and on the effects of animals on public health, including their ability to reduce or prevent disease. The institute feels it’s critical to establish a scientific foundation for the vidence that animals are good for people, even if it already seems obvious to most of the population.
Our current insurance system needs to reward individuals or families that own a pet, since it is clear they can reduce health issues and improve overall physical and mental wellness. An animal is non-judgmental, they help us feel needed and give us unconditional love and trust. They listen to our troubles and sit close through the good times and bad. In stories they have always have been our hero. All research seems to conclude that theyre numerous physical and psychological benefits of having a pet in your life.
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