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Petting Away Depression

     You've seen the TV commercials, the person in black and white and sad while they watch their friends and family in color happy as can be? Then the sad individual gets help, sees the world in color and has a dog run into frame to play with them, or they are suddenly on the couch petting their beloved cat. Well, there's a reason for that, pets can help individuals with depression/illnesses/anxiety.

     "Pets offer an unconditional love that can be very helpful to people with depression," says Ian Cook, MD, a psychiatrist and director of the Depression Research and Clinic Program at UCLA.

     Depression affects millions of individuals in the USA alone. A lot of people reading this suffer from some form or know someone who does. A pet might not be right for everyone, so don't just show up with a pet one day for someone you know with depression. 

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     The first thought that enters many heads is "I can barely take care of myself, a pet would be a mistake." Well, with great pets, comes great responsibility. Depression studies have shown responsibility promotes mental health. "Taking care of a pet can help give you a sense of your own value and importance," says Cook. It will remind you that you are capable -- that you can do more than you might think.” You still may be arguing that you can't even get out of bed or off the couch, well that won’t fly (unless you get a bird, in which case let it fly around). Pets add routine to your life, you want be able to stay in bed till 2 pm or lay on the couch till 11:30, pets have a schedule and they will help you schedule your life again. You'll have to get up to feed them, let them out, play with them, walk them, feed them again. Pets get you off your butt and moving again.

     Depression has a strongest weapon, and that weapon is isolation. It will pull you back from your friends and family, you'll dodge calls/texts/snapchats/IM all of it. Leaving you to question all your thoughts alone, that is when depression strikes hardest. Pets offer the opposite of isolation, they bring companionship. A dog will never leave you alone, in a good way. My dogs run up to me all day throwing toys at me, laying on me, whine until I pick them up. I'm never alone, and I love my pets for that. I have woken up at 3 am to one of my dogs throwing a football at my head, meaning its play time now. Having a pet means you're never alone, even when you shut the door to go to the bathroom in peace, your pet will barge in "You watch me go, why can't I watch you go?"

Moments after being hit with a football at 3am

Moments after being hit with a football at 3am


     Pets give us routine, keeping us active, dogs have the added benefit of being brought on walks, or to dog parks. This exercise of taking your pet out promotes physical activity which in turn promotes mental and physical health. Walks help you lose weight, get you out of your depressing house which you've been cooped up in for far too long  and also lets your pet relieve themselves with no shame. Say you're walking your dog or bring them to the dog park, well there's a good chance someone's going to come up to you to ask to pet your dog or ask what kind of breed they are, your dog will encourage you to interact socially.  You may be shy or anxious or still feel alone, but guaranteed your dog will get attention and thus bring the interaction to you. So long isolation, hello social butterfly wonder dog. You may hate talking about yourself or not care what others say but pet owners love talking about their pets like children, and it's safe to say if you have a pet you like pets in general, so you'll go ahead and converse about them. Let your pet shine. 

     If I'm not petting one dog I'm petting the other, if I'm not scratching a friends cat behind the ears them I'm scratching another. Studies show that people feel better when they have physical contact with others. Petting a cat and listening to them purr soothes you, rubbing your dogs belly and watching their leg kick also relaxes you. You're no longer sitting in the house just lying there, you have someone to touch, to talk to, to interact with. 

Laughter is the best medicine.

Laughter is the best medicine.

     Finally, there's laughter, endless laughter. Depressions got you down well your pet with 100% certainty will make you laugh. I've had my dogs fart on me when I've gone to pick them up and the sound scares them so they run away, one of them fell off my bed in the middle of the night while dreaming and got right back up with his tail wagging like it was the best dream ever. Depression makes you think about everything that has gone wrong and everything that can go wrong over and over again until you can take it no more. These little moments with pets that make you laugh make a world of difference. You may laugh as your cat chases a laser pointer around your house trying to catch the blasted red dot, or as they randomly fall asleep anywhere they like, like upside down on top of a loaf of a bread, the point being that though they are pets they have more empathy than we could ever dream. 

   The hardest step is getting up and seeking help and once you do that, take your pet for a walk or pet them, anything to get your mind on track a little more. Pets may not cure depression, but they certainly can help calm you.

- Chris Stallone

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How one little rescue dog is helping a grieving family heal

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On, October 29, 2013, Long Island was bracing itself for the arrival of Hurricane Sandy. For us, it all started with excitement the night before, as my 2 boys, Liam (age 16) and Colin (age 13) were doing the “happy” dance that school would most likely be closed the next day. We all said our goodnights and went to bed awaiting Sandy’s arrival. The next morning our lives were forever changed and our hearts forever shattered, dwarfing any physical/environmental damage soon to be left behind by Hurricane Sandy. You see, that morning, my beautiful, healthy son, Liam did not wake up. Sometime, during that night he passed into the arms of GOD from an unknown heart condition. It is all still so surreal, even 14 months later as I write this. As the weather took a turn for the worst so did our lives. Hurricane Sandy left us in the dark for 5 days, and Liam’s passing will leave us in the dark for an eternity. We were so broken, especially my son Colin as he lost his best friend too as they were very close brothers.

 

When experiencing a traumatic event such as the loss of a child, experts say not to make any big changes. We continued to live in the home my son was born in and passed in.  Needless to say the joy and happiness no longer was present, as our home became just a house of sorrow and extreme grief. We couldn’t look at or enter Liam’s room. It also didn’t help that Liam’s room is located in the front of the house where we couldn’t even look up at upon entering and leaving the driveway. The one change we made to our lives, in the end is the one vital change that is helping to save us. We rescued Cooper from Little Shelter, 10 mths after Liam’s passing. This little pup has truly been a miracle and gift from above. It is he, who has truly rescued us with his playfulness and unconditional love. Cooper has brought smiles, laughter and positive energy back into our home at a time we couldn’t imagine it ever coming back. We all look forward to coming home again and having him greet us. His kisses and addiction to cuddling, help ease our pain every day. I am most grateful for the change Cooper has brought to my younger son.  Colin did not like being in the house alone anymore and coming home from school was the worst as my husband and I both work. Now, Colin comes running in the door with such energy and excitement to see Cooper. They keep each other company until we get home. They play, wrestle and chase each other around the house.

 

Believe it or not, Cooper, sits on Liam's bed looking out the window awaiting anyone of us to come home. We now look for him upon entering/exiting the driveway, smiling at his excitement in seeing us. We never thought we could look up at that window again.

 

 

We thought we were going to rescue a little dog and it turns out this little ball of love rescued us instead. Cooper is helping us through the most traumatic loss a family could go through. He truly is our Rescue Dog of a Lifetime!

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The Chemical Benefits of Adopting A Dog

Animal lovers have been saying it for years and years, “animals make me so happy.” It turns out a new study by Dognition collected over the past few years has proven this to be exactly right. Dogs can alter your biochemistry for the better.

Our bodies produce Oxytocin naturally, it is known as the “hug hormone.” Oxytocin is responsible for making you feel good, lowering blood pressure, and decreasing stress. 

Researchers collected this data, observing individuals in a room with a dog. The study found that individuals who kissed their dogs more often had higher levels of oxytocin,  and dogs who gazed at their owners longer had higher levels of oxytocin as well. 

The researchers also had individuals spend 30 minutes with their dogs alone, they drew blood first, waited 30 minutes while participants focused their complete attention on the dogs, then drew blood again after the 30 minutes. 

“The researchers found that participants' blood pressure decreased, and they experienced an increase in not only oxytocin, but also a whole other range of hormones, including beta-endorphins, which are associated with euphoria and pain relief; prolactin, which promotes bonding associated with parenting behavior; phenylethylamine, which tends to increase when people find a romantic partner; and dopamine, which increases pleasurable sensations.”

The surprising side of the study came when the researchers discovered not only did people’s levels of these hormones increase, but the dogs did as well, forming a mutual benefit for all those involved.

If you’re looking for a mood booster, keep on kissing your dogs and looking into their loving eyes. If this is not an option for you, because you don’t have a dog, consider adopting a dog at a shelter today. It will benefit both of your moods.

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