Pets Can Benefit Your Mental Health, I know Mine Did!

I love my dog soooo much!! Hannah, I adopted her from another college student who was moving away.  A border collie mix black lab – a borador!.  Forty-five pounds, not too big, and not too small.

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She basically saved my life when I was living in Indiana.  She would cuddle up with me when I was sad, and she knew when I was sad.  I didn’t have to call her over, she could just see me sitting on my couch, or curled up on the futon, and she could come wag her tail in my face, or slowly climb her two front paws up next to me, or simply jump up next to me – pushing her whole weight against mine.  If I was crying, she was immediately there, no time wasted. 

I did attempt suicide, a lot.  I also didn’t attempt suicide a lot – because of her.  I didn’t want to leave her.  I didn’t trust anyone to take her.  I didn’t want the police to come hall her off to the pound. Every time I met with my case manager I begged her, if something happens to me, you have to promise me that you will make my mom take her home (my mom lived in another state).  My case manager refused to promise, cause of course she didn’t want me to kill myself. 

She kept me active.  We went to the parks in the area.  We played in the snow.  I had to get up, I had to take her out.  She gave me a reason to be alive. I slept all day for the most part for a long time.  There were some days I felt really bad that she lived with me.  She didn’t get to do much but lie on the couch with me.  I really think she understood though.  She was a breed of dog that needed lots of exercise, but she was also a breed of dog that was smart – and I think she knew how bad I felt. 

I don’t have Hannah anymore.  She is living with my mom.  When I was in the state hospital, I obviously couldn’t bring her with me, so my mom did take her.  And she is happy there, she has a big yard and another black lab to play with.  So I let her stay while I moved to Florida.  I get to visit her though when I visit Texas.  She remembers me of course, and whines and cries when she sees me.  I cry a bit when I see her too cause I miss her so much.  I wish I had her here sometimes because she helped me so much with my mental health, and one day I think I will get another dog, but I feel like if I get another one right now, I would be “cheating” on Hannah 😉

Animals can help our mental health so much.  In fact according to WebMD, they can help in the following ways:

  • They can provide unconditional love.  No matter how much we might get upset at them, they always love us.  Many times, when we have mental illness, our relationships with others can be complicated.  With animals though, our relationships are simple.  You can talk to them, you can love them, you don’t have to worry about hurting their feelings, you can just tell them how you feel and it is ok to feel the way you feel.
  • Having a pet gives you some responsibility.  Having some responsibility in your life makes you feel like you have value. You are helping to care for someone/something else.
  • You are being active!  When you are depressed, doing anything is a chore and you are rarely motivated to do anything.  Having a pet can really add to that motivation.  You have to take them out and play with them.  They keep you active and it is fun.
  • You get a routine, which is essential to one’s mental health.  You have to get up to feed your pet, take your out to the bathroom, play with it, or whatever daily tasks it might need.
  • You have a companion.  You aren’t alone.  You have someone else to talk to.  So what if it is a dog or a cat?  Or a hamster or guinea pig?  They listen.  You are never alone!
  • Some research even shows that having a pet (dogs specifically) lowers blood pressure, reduces stress hormones, and increased the level of the feel-good hormones in the brain.

 

 

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10 thoughts on “Pets Can Benefit Your Mental Health, I know Mine Did!”

  1. Lovely story, Marie. I truly admire your courage and the honesty you put on your writings. I am more of a cat-person, although I must admit dogs are friendlier and nicer. Animals are wonderful. Cheers 🙂

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  2. Ah yes! Cats! I love cats too, the only problem is I am horribly allergic to them. After about 5 minutes I look like I have been crying all day long!

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  3. Great post!! I definitely find myself going to my puppy whenever I’m feeling down…she’s always willing to cuddle! Ha. Also, when I was younger we had this dog who would come find you whenever he heard you crying, sometimes he even sensed when you were just sad. He wouldn’t leave you until you felt better. I will forever love dogs for all these reasons.

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  4. Aww!!! I am so glad that you find your dog as comforting as I found mine! They are definitely the best cuddlers and can sense when you are down

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  5. A friend of mine loves her dog and credits him with keeping her motivated. Pets can be wonderful but we need to be able to look after them properly which is where I would flounder.
    I tend to get my pet fixes vicariously through others.
    Hannah sounds wonderful.

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  6. Dogs are the best! I don’t know what I would do without mine! If only I could bring them to school with me becuae I miss them so much when I’m not home

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  7. I know! I wish I could have had mine trained as a psychiatric service dog. My psychiatrist had a note so she could live in my apartment a therapeutic dog since they didn’t allow dogs, but she was definitely too hyper in public to ever get trained as a service dog or I would have done it!

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