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Do Pets Help with Mental Health?

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Do Pets Help with Mental Health?


It was the beginning of March when my son asked me to go to the backyard to introduce me to the dog he and his dad had bought and flown from Kansas…..What?

At that moment I started walking like Darth Vader in a hallway of the Devastator, breathing heavily, the vein on my forehead popping and my blood pressure rising. I could not believe they had gotten a dog without consulting me!  I had been postponing having a dog for years for a number of reasons – no time, too much work, allergies, my mom moving in with us, etc.

I finally went outside and there he was – a beautiful dark brown Goldendoodle called Choco (short for Chocolate). I must confess that I fell under Choco’s spell immediately but I couldn’t forgive the fact that I was not consulted in such an important decision, so I put a blank face and said firmly “OK, but he is not my dog.” They promised that they would take care of the dog 100% and I would not have to do anything at all. I kept my cool and took a deep, deep, deep inhale as I accepted their promise. For the first few weeks in every family conversation related to the dog I had the same answer: “hashtag he is not my dog.”

Studies have shown that the bond between people and their pets can increase fitness, lower stress, and bring happiness to their owners. Some of the health benefits of having a pet include:

  • Relieves Stress
  • Encourages Physical Activity and Being Outdoors
  • Boosts Heart Health
  • Fights Allergies
  • Promotes Social Interaction
  • Improves Emotional Health
  • Keeps Us Present

Harvard Medical School found that the most obvious benefits of pet ownership are love and companionship. There was even a recent study in the journal Science about how oxytocin is boosted in both the dog and the human when the dog owner stares into the eyes of the dog. Oxytocin is one of the body’s “feel-good” chemicals and also plays a role in social bonding.

During the next few weeks, I secretly played with Choco, I happily fed, walked, and spoiled him. It has now been a few months and I must admit that I am crazy, I repeat, crazy in love with this smart, fluffy, beautiful creature. It doesn’t matter how busy, stressed, or tired I am, I see him and I just melt.


Do you have a pet? How does your pet have improved your quality of life? You don’t have a pet? Why?

Claudia Villarreal, PMA-CPT



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