Pet Corner – Animals make difference in peoples lives

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Animals can make all the difference for an individual living with a disability. There are certified trained service dogs that guide the blind; bring out-of-reach objects to individuals in wheelchairs; and some intuitive service dogs can detect and warn an epileptic of a seizure, minutes before it actually occurs. But even pets without special training can help individuals suffering from conditions such as depression, dementia, multiple sclerosis, cancer, stroke, heart disease and other debilitating circumstances.

Martha, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, depression and anxiety, reports that just brushing or petting her cat, Jingles, calms her and seems to take away her stress and her worries about the future. Jingles takes her mind off her problems, at least for a while. Actually scientists have found that handling pets can lower ones’ blood
pressure.

Pets are also important because they have needs. They must be fed, groomed and in the case of dogs, they need to be walked. This makes having pets a way for the owner to get out in the fresh air and meet people. Mark, who is a stroke survivor says his dog, Rex, gets him out and meeting people even with his speech, which was impacted by the stoke. Mark explains, my dog makes it easier to talk to people. They focus on Rex rather than my difficulties with words.

In addition, pets are helpful in that they expect a routine. They are creatures of habit. They know when it is time to eat and when it is time to sleep. As a result, they can be a predictable feature in their owner’s life when so much else has become topsy-turvy with the disruption of an illness. Further, any pet owner will tell you that his or her pet makes a great listener, one who doesn’t judge and asks for little more than food, warmth, and some play and affection in return.

Today, the better nursing homes are aware of the benefits of having visiting and resident animals on the premises. Some floors have a cat that is free to roam and others welcome regular visits from licensed therapy dogs. Many of the elderly miss having a cat or dog of their own, and when they can hold or see animals in the nursing home, they can reminisce about a lifetime of animals they once loved and for which they dearly cared. When Douglas’s father was seriously ill in a nursing home, the resident cat would not leave his side until he passed. Apparently this was not the first time this same cat was drawn to the side of a dying resident.

Friends of the Saratoga County Animal Shelter¬† –¬†

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