As furparents, we know how great it is to have the love of a furbaby, but did you know just how good for us they are? Jessica Brody of Our Best Friends talks about what it means to have paw-prints on your heart, plus gives us some things to think about when making a furry addition to your family (Guest Post).
Adopting a pet can change your life for the better, even if you’re struggling with mental health or substance abuse issues. The moment a pet realizes he is yours and you are his, you become instant partners without hesitation. He will be by your side the moment you need him, and always give you the benefit of the doubt. You in turn are responsible for the health and well-being of your companion animal. This exchange makes pet ownership a big step, one which requires thoughtful preparation but offers rich rewards in exchange.
A Furry, Faithful Friend
The key to a pet’s amazing ability to help heal mental and emotional scars lies in the power of friendship. Human beings are social creatures whose happiness depends on the bonds they form with others. The challenge for those in recovery is that they often lack the social skills needed to manage close relationships. Studies show that even the most outgoing person can only maintain active friendships with around 150 people. Those struggling with interpersonal issues may have trouble relating to other persons at all.
This is where pets come into the picture. Animals are unconcerned about your social status, your politics, or your bank account. You can have millions of dollars or just enough money to get by; they will love you as much either way. Who could imagine a better friend for a lonesome soul than a fur-covered angel of mercy? A pet will snuggle with you when you’re sad, show gratitude for even the smallest gift, and light up whenever you enter the room. All they ask in return is that you show them kindness and maybe just a wee bit of spoiling every now and then.
This doesn’t mean you should run out right now and buy a dog or cat, however. Being a responsible pet owner requires careful thought and preparation. If you think bringing home a pet is the right option for you, here are some tips for making sure you and your new friend live happily ever after:
● Stick with a dog or cat. Both species can provide the companionship people with addiction or mental health challenges need.
● Look for your new friend at local non-profit shelters, not pet shops. Millions of wonderful creatures are in animal shelters right now awaiting someone like you to give them a good home. Shelters charge far less than shops and often have healthier, tamer animals. While some shops are reputable, others buy their stock from puppy mills.
● Temper your emotions by asking yourself some hard questions. Do you have the space the animal will need? Does anyone in your household have allergies that might restrict what types of pets you can own? Is the pet in which you’re interested likely to shed? If so, are you willing to clean it up? What about poop and pee problems? If you get a dog, will you have time to walk it?
● Spend as much time with the animal as possible prior to the adoption. Getting to know your new friend before you bring them home can make the adjustment easier for both of you.
● Realize that your pet will try your patience every now and then. You may hear a crashing sound one night and run into the living room to see a cherished item lying broken on the floor. You could feel something squishy underfoot and look down to see your shoe covered in poo. Or you might notice incriminating teeth marks on the legs of your dining table. These things happen. When they do, remember that your pet is just being an animal. Yelling or using physical punishment will only create fear that can ruin the relationship you’re trying to nurture. You’ll get much further by using gentle discipline to teach your cat or dog the rules of the house.
Pet ownership takes preparation and hard work. But the rewards include happy times and cherished memories, both of which can be highly therapeutic for those suffering from mental health or substance abuse problems. And by seeking the friendship of a companion animal, you’re making the world a better place.