By Sarah Jane Duffy, Boomerang staff writer
I'm in love with a special someone who has terrible table manners and even worse breath. His hair is always falling out and he slobbers when kisses me. Why do I love him so? Because he is very handsome, loyal and affectionate, he is my fierce protector, and he keeps my feet warm at night. During the month of February I'm professing my love to Hunter, my fiancé's dog, whom I have grown to love and appreciate in a surprising number of ways.
Studies have shown that pets can enhance their owner's health and quality of life. Older adults who own pets make fewer visits to their doctors than those without animal companions. Pet and human interaction can lower cholesterol levels, fight depression and may even help protect against heart disease and stroke. Pets help people get into a daily routine, as many pet owners sync their pet's feedings with their own meals. Playing with your pet or walking a dog offers health benefits for both the human and the animal.
Another way pets can enhance our lives is through increased socialization. Having a pet provides a sense of purpose and emotional connection. Many people are drawn to animals and bond with others over the shared experiences of having a pet. People are more likely to talk to someone walking a dog as opposed to a lone walker. A pet can help you meet people and give folks an extra reason to stop by and check on you.
Caring for a pet is a responsibility, and for many, leads to them taking better care of themselves. The choice to own a pet is one that should be considered very carefully. If a pet owner finds caring for the animal to be difficult, having a pet may actually cause more stress than it relieves. Factors to consider include the type, age, size and temperament of the animal, its activity level and the amount and cost of medical care and grooming it will likely need to stay healthy. Another thing to consider is the impact a pet will have on your living space. Pets or their stuff (toys, leashes, etc.) can be tripping hazards. More than 86,000 Americans go to the emergency room each year because of falls involving their pets.
Some adults choose to adopt older pets to bypass the "puppy" stage and generally get an animal that is calmer and easier to train, or is already trained and housebroken. When you adopt a pet, you help the community. Pet overpopulation is a serious problem; feral and stray animals can cause accidents, spread disease and injure pets and other animals. One place to look for pet adoption is your local animal shelter. A shelter's adoption fees typically are a lot lower than prices at a pet store or from a breeder. Most shelters give physical examinations and vaccinations to animals when they arrive, and spay or neuter them before being allowing them to be adopted. More than three million shelter dogs and cats are not adopted and are euthanized each year in the United States.
If you or an older loved one is considering adopting a pet, the Pets for the Elderly Foundation may be able to help. Started in Cleveland in 1992, the foundation offers reduced adoption fees at 58 participating shelters in 30 states. For more information, call (440) 347-9710.
Many of us think of our pets as family, and they bring us great joy. They are always there for us and vice versa. A pet offers unconditional love and who doesn't love that? When you weigh the cost and responsibility, lots of folks think a furry family member is well worth the money and effort.
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