I grew up most of my life without a pet.  I didn’t dislike animals; I just never had a whole lot to do with them.  When I got married, my husband very much wanted to get a dog, so I agreed, without really knowing too much what to expect.

Wolfgang was a black miniature poodle who we got as a puppy from friends of ours.  He really did become our ‘child’.  He brought us so much love and joy.  He was beautiful and Peter often took him to work with him where he worked in a care home.  He soon became a favourite of many of the people who lived and worked in the care home too.  

At the time I was working as an occupational therapist with adults who lived in group homes in the community after living in institutions for most of their lives.  Many of the people I worked with were profoundly disabled in that they had both an intellectual disability and other physical / sensory disabilities as well.  I spoke with the care team and my manager, and we agreed that it might be a nice opportunity for Wolfgang to visit with some of our clients. 

Having heard positive things from my husband about how well he did in the care home, I was a bit concerned how this boisterous puppy at home was going to behave.  He was simply marvellous!  There was something so instinctive and intuitive with how he interacted with each person and adapted his response according to their needs.  In our house where it was usually quiet and dull, it was like everyone suddenly awakened.  With one lady who was both deaf and blind, he just sat on her lap and let himself be gently patted.  Another gentleman who was more active, but rarely interacted with others played with a ball with him and began laughing.  His visit brought so much joy to the people living and working in the home.  It really did seem a bit like magic.

It didn’t take too long before I became an animal and in particular a dog lover.  Wolfgang did bring so much love and joy to our lives, and it wasn’t too long after we decided to adopt his brother Schubert as well.

Research indicates there are many wonderful benefits to having a pet.  These include:

  • Pets are excellent mood enhancers.  Playing with your pet can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine, which help in making you feel calm and relaxed. Additionally, petting your animal friend, especially a cat, makes your body produce more oxytocin. Oxytocin, sometimes referred to as the “love hormone,” aids in boosting your levels of happiness.
  • Pets are effective stress busters.  Spending time and interacting with your pet is proven to reduce stress. It lowers the levels of cortisol, a stress-related hormone, and decreases blood pressure, both of which are directly linked to one’s physical and mental health. Pets are excellent stress relievers and very beneficial, especially for people suffering from anxiety or hypertension.
  • They help ease feelings of loneliness and depression.  It goes without saying that having a pet can provide great companionship and make you happier.  Dogs are extremely good at detecting when their owners are sad or depressed and will try their best to cheer you up.
  • Pets can be great exercise buddies.  People with pets tend to lead a more active lifestyle compared to their no-pet counterparts. Whether it’s having a cat or a dog or any other animal, taking care of your pet — feeding, grooming, and playing or walking with them is proven to help you stay healthier.
  • Pets give you a sense of purpose.  Having a pet changes your outlook on life. They give you a sense of feeling needed, especially when you’re going through difficulties in life. The bond with your pet provides a sense of togetherness, trust, joy and companionship.

Pets and animals do bring so much joy and love to people, in addition to many physical and mental health benefits too.  Obviously not everyone loves animals, but many of us should have the pleasure of being able to spend time with our four-footed friends.

‘Sometimes the best medicine is unconditional love from your pet’.


OT (Australia)
Managing Director MCM

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