The Healing Power of Pets

Tuesday October 2, 2018

It's a year since we got our 8-week old Labrador puppy, Oscar. During that time he's morphed from a cuddle of cuteness into a much-loved member of the family. Having Oscar wasn't a decision I took lightly and I waited a long time, firstly, to find the right dog and secondly, for the children to be grown-up enough to help look after him.

We're a single-parent family and I was acutely aware (also because people kept telling me) that he would be a tie and a lot of work and I must be made mad to contemplate adding more stress to my life. I may have been mad and he is all those things, but on balance, having him in our lives this past year has been a positive thing, helping all of us deal with the ups and downs of life.

Having a dog gets you out the house and interacting with others. Oscar needs walking every day, twice a day, and we get to walk through such gorgeous spaces that I wouldn't otherwise visit. I've really noticed how the seasons change and I'm much fitter. Some days I don't want to go, but it gets me out of my head and you get to meet and walk with a whole community you never really noticed before – other dog lovers.

A dog can be a real mood enhancer. Oscar's happiness is infectious - he wags his whole body in excitement when he greets you so you can't help but smile however crappy you're feeling. As a mother of teens, lovely though they are, it's great to have someone whose needs are so simple and who is always pleased to see me. You can also learn a lot from him about being in the moment; as long as his belly is full and he's had his walk and a bit of petting, he's happy to just be.

I got the dog for the children too, because they need that unconditional affection as much as I do. They absolutely adore him and although they grumble, also walk and feed him. They like snuggling up with him on the sofa. Sometimes we go out, the four of us, playing hide and seek in the local park – Oscar helps keep us bonded.

There's only one of us who can't stand him and that's George, the cat, but even he is getting better. He's gone from refusing to being on the same floor of the house to sharing a double bed, although if Oscar gets too close, he does get swatted. George is very much the alpha in that relationship.

There are downsides, such as animal hair all over the house and Oscar is a real scavenger, while George does occasionally poo where he shouldn't, but whether it's stroking George or racing Oscar round the park, having them has greatly improved our home life and helps us celebrate the little things.

Do you have a pet? What does he or she bring to your life?

A View From The Far Side
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