Call of the Wild: Health Benefits of Being a Dog Owner
By Sara Butler
I’m a sucker for a Harrison Ford movie. If Indiana Jones is in it, then count me there. Animal movies, on the other hand, are much harder on me because I inevitably end up a blubbering mess. Even animated animal movies leave me a sobbing ball of fur. Seeing The Call of the Wild in theaters presented a bit of an existential crisis for me, creating a war between my love for Han Solo and my wariness of animal movies. Ultimately, Dr. Richard Kimble won out.
In the end, I cried a lot, but I also walked away with an appreciation for my own pets and how much they enrich my life. After digging a bit deeper, I discovered that pets actually can improve our health and wellness. Although you may not go on a wilderness adventure with your own Buck, there are so many ways that animals enhance our lives. Here are just a few.
The Ultimate Stress Buster
When you come home from a long day at work only to find that your dog has busted into the pantry and eaten an entire box of granola bars, it may not feel like Fido or Fancy are helping lower your stress -- but overall they really are.
When you pet your dog, cat, rabbit, hamster, or whatever you love, it helps to lower your blood pressure. It also triggers your body to release a hormone that helps you relax and can help counter the levels of stress hormones in your body.
You’re a Social Animal
Pets really can help you to connect with other people. Whether that means talking about your pot-bellied pig with curious strangers or taking your dog to the dog park and chatting it up with other owners, animals make social situations more comfortable. In fact, it encourages perfect strangers to strike up a conversation when it may not be socially acceptable otherwise; social interactions are vital to your overall health and mood.
A Happy Heart
You love your pet, which makes your heart happy emotionally -- but what about physically? It turns out that having a pet may make you less likely to develop heart disease due to the fact that they help you stay active -- both socially and physically. That makes pet ownership literally good for your heart.
And if you already have heart problems, then you may want to consider getting a pet if you don’t already have one. Studies have shown that people who have survived heart attacks live longer if they have a pet than those heart attack victims who forgo their fluffy friends.
Natural Mood Boosters
It’s been established that people with pets are generally more trusting, happier, and less lonesome than people without pets. It’s thought that this is because having pets give your life meaning and provides a sense of belonging. So, I guess if you’re looking for the meaning of life, then all you need to do is look into some puppy dog eyes to find it!
Not planning on visiting the Yukon anytime soon with your best nonhuman friend? You don’t have to! Just keep your pets close and keep living your life together. It’s a surefire way to reap all the health benefits a pet has to offer. Who knows, it might even save your life.
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