The other night I had a wonderful massage, acupressure session, sound therapy, and manipulation. It made me feel really whole, healed, and loved. Where did I get this great treatment, you might ask.This is what happened—after I got into bed, our two dogs jumped in beside me and realigned my spine. Then one of our cats jumped up and walked up and down my body touching all the vital acupressure points before she settled down on my chest purring loudly. The rhythm of her purr was very tranquilizing.
Then, another cat who weighs more than the dogs, jumped up and settled in against my other side, vigorously working over all my muscles before settling in. Not infrequently he makes noise, when he knows I need to improve my finger and hand mobility, until I pull my arms out from under the covers and stroke his ears and make circles with my fingers on his head. In that way I also am learning massage techniques. This one for animals is called the Tellington Touch.
Why am I telling you this? Because having a pet is good for your health, and these connections with God’s Masterpieces can keep you healthy. Let me give you some facts which, I hope, will get you to have a dog or cat or rabbit in your office—and as a co-therapist when you make house calls:
- In a stressful situation, which is better: to have your best friend, spouse, or pet present? If I place your hand in ice water which of the above helps you to cope best? Well, studies reveal that your friend and spouse make your blood pressure go up higher, but with your dog it barely changes at all. The interesting thing is that when the dog is present, as well as friend or spouse, the negative effects of them causing high blood pressure are cancelled.
- Another question arose. Is it simply that pet owners are different and less likely to have their blood pressure rise, or do the pets make a difference? Well, what they did next was take stock brokers with hypertension who lived alone, felt stressed, and were about to go on medication, and had them randomly assigned to adopt a cat or dog from an animal shelter. Next they were given stressful things to do including speaking to a client whose money they had lost. Those with the pets saw their blood pressure increase by less than half the amount of those without pets. In my family, my wife found that she could use the pets to help me calm down and lower my voice by saying, “Honey, you’re upsetting the pets.” They always have that concerned look, as if they did something wrong, and that’s why I am bellowing. Of course, I laugh and quiet right down. It really works.
- Other studies in which dogs were brought into schools showed they lowered the truancy rate. In a nursing home the presence of dogs lowered the cost of medications by two-thirds and the mortality rate by 40 percent. I may add that it is the connections that make a difference. In nursing homes, residents having the responsibility of taking care of plants and goldfish had the same beneficial effects.
- In Australia, a study revealed that those who went home after a heart attack to a home with a dog had a mortality rate of approximately 6% compared to a rate of nearly 30% in households with no dogs. The doctor doing the study said that if we looked at all the health benefits of a dog in every household in Australia, they would save millions of dollars a year. So I think we should petition our politicians to pass a law that every household must have a pet and care for it with loving appreciation as an equal member of the family.
- When our kids were younger and could participate in the care of our pets many at home, we had every species known to man living in or around our home. They were all family and truly taught the kids a reverence for life. The ducks and geese would follow them to the bus stop, and be very upset when they weren’t allowed to go to school with the kids. So they would come home and then go back to the stop to meet them in the afternoon.
- I won’t go on about all the creatures, but they even included an abandoned rabbit my wife rescued in the woods where someone had dumped her. So, I learned about rabbits and she became a wonderful, loving house pet. They can be trained like cats to use a litter box. Smudge became a member of the family, and lived in the house with our fenced in yard, which everyone gets to through the pet door. If you are interested in the story about how troubles can become blessings, get a copy of my book, Smudge Bunny. The kids love it when I go to local schools with our dogs and read to them about Smudge. The thank you notes always include comments about the fun of petting the dogs, too.
In closing, along with the studies I mention above, other studies also reveal that petting a dog raises the levels of your bonding hormone, oxytocin, as well as serotonin. So we can see why we are changed by the experience of connecting with a dog through petting, which changes our body chemistry for the good by increasing hormones that raise a sense of well being within. Now, go down to the shelter and bring a friend home. A thank you note from one of the children and her dad who were in the audience when I spoke to her class, said that they went directly to the shelter after I spoke to their class.