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Pets to the rescue

By KATHY MORAN, The Philippine STAR Published Mar 05, 2021 7:25 pm

It has been a strange time for all of us, this pandemic year. It has changed us in all sorts of ways.

“Is it true that people who live with pets live longer?” asked my friend Fiona before she got a pet of her own recently. “And, if they live longer, are they healthier and more importantly, happier?”

“I don’t know,” was my reply. “Why? Do you think you will live longer because you have kids?” I ask.

“Kids are not the same as pets,” quipped Fiona.

“True,” I said. “But when you have a pet it is a lifetime commitment. I was once told that we raise our pets to be totally dependent on us.”

“And, I raise my kids in a way so that one day they have will be able to live their own lives,” quipped Fiona. “It isn’t good to compare raising kids with raising pets.”

“Ahhh, spoken like a true parent,” I laughed. “Pets are easier to handle, they don’t have allowance issues, and they normally agree with what I want them to do.”

But both Fiona and I agree that owning a pet, or two, or more, makes for a happier home.

I live with five dogs (Dimitri, Yuri, Tasha, Gorby and Vodka) and four cats (Mr. Gizmo, Miss Kitty, Garfield and Snowy). Fiona lives with two dogs (Ash and Boo), three kids and a husband.

Gorby, my five-year-old Maltipoo, gets a cuddle from young Lana.

I recently came across one of those articles that people my age (in their late 50s) read. It was about how to live a happier and healthier life.

There are a few things that the article mentioned, which I found to be true: one is that it is good that we get some exercise and the other is that we live with a pet. The other portions of the article focused on having a social life — like joining a club, volunteering for a cause-oriented group, or making friends with the neighbors.

I believe that networking is good; more so if you have arrived at an age where you no longer work on a regular basis, or in an office.

But, as I am still employed, I have enough – even perhaps too much at times – social interaction.

Exercise has been part of my life for as long as I can remember. I come from a family of athletes, and sports has always been part of the air we breathe.

Pet ownership is something different. I got my very own (not family-owned) pet when I was in my 30s. It was a Mini Schnauzer. In my journey with pets, I have been hooman to a Ferret (Farah), two Peruvian Guinea Pigs (Pepe and Pilar), an Iguana (Slimey) and a Tortoise (Pong), who still lives with me.

Exercise and pet ownership are two things in my life I cannot live without.

Because many pet owners feel a sense of responsibility for the animals they care for, this responsibility can be a driving force for someone struggling with depression and loneliness.

I have read lots of studies, which say that pet owners live longer. Now, I am not sure that I truly want to live much longer, but I am sure that I want to live a happy and fun-filled life while I am alive.

Many people I have met in the almost 20 years that I have covered the “pet beat” have told me that sharing their lives with a pet is one of the most rewarding experiences.

I am often amazed when I see people who have so little in life and yet still have time to care for a dog. Just this morning on the way to work I saw a man trying to stop the cars so that he could get his dog back safely. Pets truly bring out the best in their hoomans.

  Gorby puts Rapha to sleep.

In my discussions about pet ownership (whatever the pet) with pet parents, I have often heard how their pets are the best way to de-stress.

“I know that when I am not feeling too positive about life, I take a walk with my dog,” said Jake. “I guess it’s because — aside from the fact that Brownie loves to walk — it is also because I get to stop and literally smell the flowers.”

At home in the morning it is Vodka who is always the first to jump on my bed and give me a warm lick. If I am still asleep, she lies down beside me until she notices that I begin to move.

Waking up like this on mornings when I feel blah can truly make me feel loved. What better way is there to wake up? I also read that pets can provide a reason for folks who are not too happy to get up in the morning. Because many pet owners feel a sense of responsibility for the animals they care for, this responsibility can be a driving force for someone struggling with depression and loneliness.

I was also thinking about the Dr. Dog Program of the Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), which lets them bring dogs to visit kids and even the elderly who are sick. As I have always wanted to be a parent to kind dogs, when my dogs were pups, I would train them to be ready to be a Dr. Dog.

Therapists who offer animal or pet therapy have noted that their patients often seem happier with animals around.

At an early age, the pet has to be able not to be angered when his ears are pulled, his nose is hit, or when his tail is tugged. Much like what kids would do when they meet a cute dog for the first time.

I finally got to test my doggies during this pandemic when my niece asked to borrow a doggie to teach her niece (Lana, 2) and nephew (Rapha, 10) how to be responsible. The pandemic has made more time for kids at home with their families, which is a good thing, but no time for interaction with other people or animals — just the computer screen, it seems — which is not too good.

I was told that the kids always fussed over Gorby, the five-year-old Maltipoo I lent them, and Gorby just let the kids. This kind of interaction has made me one proud fur mom; it means that I raised Gorby right. After all, the kind of dog they become is a result of the kind of upbringing they had, much like kids raised by their parents.

I have a few pictures here with Rapha and Lana taking turns being with Gorby, who takes it all in with doggie kindness.

Therapists who offer animal or pet therapy have noted that their patients often seem happier with animals around. It has proven that the residents and patients often greet animal visitors to hospitals, retirement homes, and other care facilities with excitement.

I guess I must have done something right — and that makes all the difference in the world to me.

Banner and thumbnail Photo by Meru Bi from Pexels