Before Christmas, my family committed to all staying home one night to watch holiday movies together.
As the time neared for the first film to begin, we found our pets had gathered in the living room as well, taking up a good portion of the couches. This is not an exaggeration. We have three dogs — and despite their alleged thinking, none of them is a true lap dog.
This happens pretty often. It’s not unusual to see one of us walk in the room, pause when we see the shortage of comfortable seating and choose to find a spot on the floor instead of moving a napping pet.
Pets are great companions and can be a source of calming and comfort, especially during the stress of the holiday season.
Countless studies have shown that, in addition to the affection, pets provide a wellness benefit — decreased blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels and feelings of loneliness and increased opportunities for exercise and socialization.
According to Marty Becker, DVM, author and veterinary consultant for “Good Morning America,” “A lot of it goes back to reducing stress. You might lose your job, your house, your 401(k) — but you’ll never lose the unconditional love of your pet.”
There must be something to this because, as of February 2018, an estimated 68 percent of U.S. households had a pet. They are stress relievers and mood boosters, and who doesn’t need that?
“People who have pets are less harried; there’s more laughter in their life,” Becker said. “When you come home, it’s like you’re George Clooney. You’re a rock star.”
Our dogs aren’t certified therapy dogs, but the companionship and unwavering affection they offer, day in and day out, without question, are proof of the benefits of having a pet.
Many of you have read accounts of Sirius, arguably the area’s most well-known therapy dog. He and his handler, Charlene Piskula, of Coplay, have traveled to local hospitals to provide comfort to those with health issues. Sirius is struggling with some health issues of his own now, and he is being well cared for — receiving the same love and comfort he has offered during his many years of service.
Having a pet can lessen anxiety. My college-age daughters both know fellow students who have therapy and emotional support pets, dogs and cats alike, on campus. I’ve heard great stories, and seen even better photos, of the interactions between these animals and all of those who have come in contact with them, not just the students who own them.
If you’re smiling and nodding, you get it. You know the incredible power of pets. You feel the love.
Sure, our pets aren’t perfectly behaved all the time. On any given day, they bark too much, each and every time someone walks on “their” street. And you should witness the chaos when the mail carrier approaches. Over the holidays, they begged for extra treats from our guests. They misbehaved a little while each tried to be the alpha dog when visiting family arrived. And one — the 2-year-old “when will she stop being such a puppy” Labradoodle — destroyed a tabletop Santa.
But still, those are not the things I recall when I think about them. Instead, I remember the excitement when I walk in the door, no matter how short or long my time away. I remember the crazy scramble through the house to the back door, as they see our neighbor beginning his daily trek to our fence to give them a treat. I remember the nights I found an open seat on the couch and settled in, only to have a dog (or two or three) cuddle up beside me (or on my lap, trying to sit seemingly in the exact same space that I was sitting). I remember seeing the complete love and devotion each time they look at me. I remember feeling like a rock star.