As a friend of mine sat discussing with me his experiences with his low carb diet recently, an interesting issue came up. It seemed Kenny had a hard time with it for the first several months — starting and stopping the diet as he got depressed or lonely. Like many people, he's newly "alone", having finalized a divorce last year. Learning to deal with single-hood at the same time he's attempting to embark on a new way of eating has proven to be problematic for him.
Yet, I'd commented that he seemed happier, and certainly thinner these last weeks. I had to know what had changed. Was there a new woman in Kenny's life? No... (though he joked about how there would be when he shed the extra weight...) Was he going to some kind of support group? No.. that wasn't it either. The difference was that he'd gotten a dog. Yes, something that simple. It changed his whole outlook.
As a lifelong pet owner myself, I couldn't imagine not having a little furball to come home to. In fact, Lora and I are looking into adopting two new dogs this Summer (watching the Westminster Dog Show will get you every time.) But you know me... I was curious why this metamorphosis would occur in my friend because of his pet adoption.
Throughout history animals have played a significant role in human customs, legends, and religions. Primitive people found that human-animal relationships were important to their very survival, and petkeeping was common in hunter-gatherer societies.
In our own time, the great increase in pet ownership may reflect a largely urban population's often unsatisfied need for contact with nature.
Horseback riding for people with serious disabilities has been reported for centuries. In 1792, animals were incorporated into the treatment for mental patients at the York Retreat, England, as part of an enlightened approach attempting to reduce the use of harsh drugs and restraints.
The first suggested use of animals in a therapeutic setting in the United States was in 1919 at St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington, D. C., when they received a letter suggesting the use of dogs as companions for the psychiatric hospital's resident patients.
Similar use of companion animals continues to this day... In fact, the use of animals in a variety of therapeutic approaches has become more and more widespread in recent years.
Why Does It Work?
It's becoming increasingly evident that pets benefit their owners physically, psychologically and socially. It may sound like a tall order for a small bundle of fur or feathers to fill, but there's apparently a lot to be said for the snuggling, laughter and unconditional love that pets provide.
Animals promote interpersonal communication: Multiple studies have shown that the presence of animal leads to the interpretation of social scenes as less threatening and improves the perceived character of the people associated with the animals. Animals have been termed "social lubricants" since they facilitate social interactions. They are a conversation piece and a safe topic between people.
Animals aid in relaxation and decrease anxiety: Petting an animal is a rhythmic, repetitive activity which can act as a passive meditative focus. Interacting with an animal has been shown to reduce the cardiovascular, behavioral and psychological indicators of stress. For example, watching fish in an aquarium was found to be as effective as hypnosis in reducing anxiety in patients awaiting dental surgery.
Animals help decrease our blood pressure: There have been several scientific studies with both adults and children, which show that simply being in the presence of a dog, or petting an animal can reduce blood pressure.
Animals can be a silent therapist: Pet owners typically talk to their animals as if they were human. We can unload our problems, fears and concerns to them without fear of being judged. Animals are always good listeners, never give bad advice and are always supportive.
These beneficial effects of animals have been used in many different settings. The Shiloh Project in Fairfax, Virginia teams up an "at risk" child with a homeless dog. They spend time learning how to train a dog, and undergo humane education and communication exercises. This wonderful program has been helping children break their cycle of violence while transforming an unwanted dog into an animal which is adopted into a loving family. And this is only one of countless programs that have discovered that the bond created with a pet benefits the human condition in ways too numerous to count.
If this all "rings a bell" with you, and feeling alone or depressed has played a part in your diet woes, consider adding a new member to your little household. Obviously you'll want to take the time to adopt responsibly, and choose a breed and size that will fit your lifestyle and living arrangements. And on a personal note, I'd like to urge you to not encourage the use of puppy mills (buying your puppy from a mall puppy store.) Either adopt from a shelter, or if you're looking for a purebred, responsible AKC licensed breeders are the best way to go.
Just take two Schnauzers
and call me in the morning...
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