Anyone who “owns” (I use this term lightly as I always question whether my dog owns me or vice-versa) an animal or has in the past, knows that this wonderful bond is on borrowed time. We adopt our animals knowing we will outlive them and will need to go through the loss process at some point. I have personally experienced this 4 times in my life and have a 13-year old lab on very borrowed time. At work, we experience the loss process daily. We often get questions like, “How can you do all those euthanasias? I’d be in tears all the time.” While we sometimes put on our “game faces” so we can handle the business side of things, what many don’t see is the tears, sadness and grief as we provide final care for our beloved patients. Many times, we cannot hold the emotion in and we a crying alongside our clients as they say their final goodbyes. So why do we put ourselves through this? Why do we continue to adopt, care for and keep such wonderful animals knowing we will say good-bye?
Many organizations have done extensive research on this subject. In 1982, Purdue University even created the Center for the Human-Animal Bond within their College of Veterinary Medicine to study these relationships and to communicate its findings to scientists and the public. There are also professional groups, such as the American Association of Human-Animal Bond Veterinarians, that focus on advancing the “role of the veterinary medical community in nurturing positive human-animal interactions in society”.
Zoetis, a global animal health company, puts it simple stating, pets are good for people. Pets give people a loving companion to care for. They encourage touch, conversation and often laughter. They cause us to exercise and offer an antidote for loneliness. They teach children responsibility. By caring for pets, pet owners benefit, too. Additionally, continued research into the human-animal connection shows that the benefits are not just emotional. For example, pets can boost infant immunity to infections, help with mental health disorders by affecting brain chemistry, and lower blood pressure.
After 10 years in vet medicine, I would wholeheartedly agree. The unconditional love we get from our animals can make the dreariest moments brighter and our hearts lighter. And whether it’s 2 or 20 years, we will cherish each moment we get with our beloved “fur” babies. Wouldn’t you agree?