"The famous Chase, searching for an opportunity to run."
A little over a year ago we got our dog, Chase from a family who lived in town, and didn't have the room or time to give him what he needed. They could give him plenty of love, but not the exercise he required. At the time we had just lost a Golden Retriever, named Kinley at the age of thirteen. Her loss had left a big hole in our lives as well as in our home, which suddenly seemed so empty. When we got Chase he was nine months old, full of life, fast, energetic, and loved to run. He actually got the name "Chase" because he will chase anything. If it moves and God put it on this good earth he will chase it. Kinley, as she got older loved to lay in the sun, and watch the days pass by. She was happy to sit beside my Wife, have her head rubbed and sleep the days away. Chase, on the other hand needs to be moving all the time. If you take him for a walk you need to have a strong harness, a lot of patience, and a good pair of jogging shoes.
Chase came into my life at a time when physically and emotionally I wasn't doing very well. I was in a very stressful job which was taking up most of my time. I was overweight, had high blood pressure, and was in the early stages of depression. To make matters worse, soon after getting Chase I was laid off from my job and decided to start a career as a writer. My Wife was working full time and going to school, and my Son was busy with school and friends, and they weren't around much. The majority of my time was spent at home alone, in front of a computer screen trying to see if I had any talent as a writer, and whether I could make a living at it. I was living on coffee and dreams, and little else. I needed something to get me motivated and give me companionship, but I also wanted to be needed. One of the most important benefits of owning pets is that humans have a natural need, and thrive when we are loved and needed. It only seems natural that we get pets. Pets are great at loving us, and they depend on us as well as need us. Chase has given me that, and much more.
When we think of pets, most of us think of a dog or a cat. If you get a pet it doesn't necessarily have to be a dog or a cat. Though they provide the most benefits to your health they're not for everyone. They take a lot of work and are often expensive to keep. You'll find that even smaller animals will have a positive impact on your health. Have you ever gone into a Doctor's or Dentist's office and seen an aquarium full of fish. It's there for a purpose. It's there to help patients relax and eliminate some of their anxiety. It's very calming to just sit and stare at fish as they swim around in an aquarium. I had a friend who had hamsters. He would sit for hours and pet them, or watch them run on one of those wheels. He said that it helped him relax. I even heard that the melodious sounds of birds can have a calming effect on people. That is unless they're outside you window at 5:00 am in the morning. Let's take some time and look at how pets benefit our heath both physically and emotionally. Afterward I will tell you a little bit about how my own health has improved over the last year.
The Benefits of Getting a Pet
1. Physical Benefits. When I talk about physical benefits it doesn't necessarily mean the exercise you get by taking your pet for a five mile jog or a long walk in the woods. These are great workouts that burn a lot of calories, and help you lose or maintain your weight, but not everyone can be that active. You might be elderly or have some physical limitations. The key is to do something. Even the smallest amount of walking will help to keep bones stronger and maintain muscle. You may not be able to walk or run like you used to, but you can play in the yard with your pet with a ball or a toy. Maybe you can take a short walk around the block or just to the mail box. Even getting out of a chair, walking up and down the steps to get your pet food or water will get you moving. I don't know about you, but I have two cats as well as my dog, and changing litter boxes, getting food, water, and snacks, brushing them, and vacuuming up hair is a workout in itself. Like everything in life a little bit of exercise is better than none. Any movements including reaching, bending or stretching have definite physical benefits. Your pets will give you many opportunities for exercise.
2. Physiological benefits. Besides the obvious benefits of exercise, it has been proven that the simple act of sitting and petting an animal improves you biochemistry of hormones and neurotransmitters in you brain. Your body will actually produce more serotonin and dopamine. Studies have also shown that having pets may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and lower blood pressure, triglycerides, cholesterol levels, and heart rates. They may even help boost our immunine systems. People who suffer a heart attack have higher survival and recovery rates and have lower pain levels after surgery if they are pet owners. It has also been determined that homes with pets have children with less incidences of asthma, and more immunity to allergies.
3. Emotional and Psychological Benefits. This might just be the most important benefit of being a pet owner. Whether you're nine or ninety there is something special about the unconditional love you receive from your pet. Owning a pet is good for your mind and soul. I believe that how we love and treat our pets is a reflection of who we are. If you think about it; how could we love and take care of people if we don't do the same for the most helpless among us. Pets need and depend on us. They give us so much in return. They give us a sense of security, they increase are sense of well-being, they help us stave off loneliness, they are a natural anti-depressant, and they allow us to often take the focus off our own problems. Pets are also an excellent way to start conversations, improve our social interactions, and meet people even if we are isolated or shy. Experts in child psychology have said that having a pet is important for a child's development into emotionally healthy adults by not only being a source of comfort, but by teaching responsibility, and helping develop empathy. They have also been used in physical therapy to improve moods and reduce anxiety. Pets have been brought into retirement homes to lessen depression, and as a means to help children with ADHD and Autism.
"Chase and his best friend Harper looking for mischief."
You may be wondering how my own personal journey to better health is going since we got Chase. In the past year I've dramatically improved my physical health. I've lost thirty pounds of fat and put on ten pounds of muscle. I walk Chase an hour to an hour and a half, seven days a week; rain or shine. I have open fields and woodlands which I take him so that he can run free. I've also taken up kick boxing and I'm getting into the best shape of my life. My blood pressure is under control and my cholesterol is low. I'm eating healthier, and my energy level is high. I rarely get sick, and when I do it usually passes quickly. I actually haven't been to a Doctor in over a year except for a routine exam. The Doctor says that I'm as healthy as a horse, and if I keep taking care of myself I can look forward to many good, healthy, productive years ahead. On the psychological side, I rarely if ever feel depressed. Don't get me wrong; I still have my problems, and I often worry about my family, everyday problems like bills, and my future as a writer. I think the difference in my life is that my physical health is helping my psychological health. Chase has been a big part of both of these. As a matter of fact as I'm writing this he's lying on the floor next to me. Every once in awhile I'll reach down and rub his head or talk to him. You'd be surprised how good a listener dogs are. They also don't argue with us and they never judge us. Chase like all dogs just gives me unconditional love He's tired from his morning walk, but will probably be ready to go again in a few hours. Over the last year I've put a lot of time, effort and money into caring for Chase. I can tell you this. It's been worth it.