Most pet owners feel that their pets make them happy, but did you know that animals also have the power to make you healthy? Rescuing animals and making them a part of your family and life is a life-changing decision, whether you realize it or not.
There are over 6 million animals across the United States that are brought to shelters each year. And it’s sad to say that a portion of that number ends up becoming euthanized, so rescuing animals is not only advised but critical and necessary to help these animals carry out a happy and healthy life.
History of Healing Animals
Earlier studies have been done, starting in the 1960s, that proves further the impact of animals on humans and their health. A study done in 1980 discovered that heart attack patients who owned pets at home lived longer than those who did not, and another study concluded that the science of petting an animal could physically reduce your blood pressure.
Oxytocin is a hormone that makes us feel happy. Interaction with animals in this manner, be it physical or emotional, the animal can increase those levels. That is highly beneficial to rescue owners because oxytocin can help your body have the ability to heal by growing new cells.
Expert Opinions and Emotional Support
The expert veterinarians and assistants in veterinary care group Williamsburg state that “there is a true link between having a rescue animal and healing when it comes to their owners. For instance, there are doctors that actually now prescribe an animal to their patients because they recognize the impact that the animal can have on a human’s health.”
With a rescue dog, you have the option to rescue each other. You might be dealing with some mental health issues, have frequent stress, or want companionship. A rescue animal can help cheer you up, calm and relax you, and be a faithful and loyal friend.
Your Pet Benefits You
You understand that you have this unspoken bond with your furry friend, but it goes even deeper than that. Consider the fact that numerous hospitals, oncology units, nursing homes, and other facilities have shelters bringing in their animals to visit and provide happiness to patients and residents.
Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) has grown exponentially in the coming years. People who are dealing with trauma or other types of mental illness have found that rescuing an animal allows it to act like a therapist; you may create a connection through relationship building. But you might also find ways to benefit physically.
Animals acting like therapists just means facilitating therapy for us, which can help us heal. A great example of this is with a horse, where you can ride it to help relieve your stresses, build muscle and gain more alertness. Riding allows you to work on other physical aspects like balance and safety.
Likewise, you could engage in walking and playtime with a dog or a cat for physical benefit. Increasing your exercise can be as simple as taking your pet for an extended walk every day, allowing you to move your body and, in essence, be healthier. While you may assume you’re doing it for the animal’s benefit, it’s astonishing to discover that it also benefits you.
Why Are Rescue Animals so Special?
While you can just as easily get an animal from a breeder, rescue animals have a unique place in your home. You can find more comfort in the fact that you’re not only saving the life but giving the animal you rescue a second chance. It’s gratifying work, even if it does come with some challenges.
Giving an animal a second chance opens up the recognition that you and others can be shown that chance. Especially for animals that were returned to shelters after being mistreated or abused, it can be a harrowing experience to be part of a warm and welcoming environment suddenly.
Experiencing the love and care that was necessary for the rescue animal, to begin with, can allow it to feel more appreciative. Animals are far more intelligent than we think, and they have a sense of these things. It can also be inspiring to witness the resiliency of these animals who have been through so much, making it far easier to appreciate them.
Tips for Animal Rescue Owners
The transformative power that rescue animals can have to help you heal is substantial. But before you go to a shelter or rescue group to find your next pet, you should consider a few essential factors:
- Make sure you’re working with a reputable shelter; many of them do a pre-screening so they are aware of your environment before allowing an animal into it (they care about their animals!)
- Take time to find the right match for you with your rescue animal; it may not always be what you picture at first, so be open to changes.
- Ask as many questions as you can think of regarding the prior environment that the animal was in so you have all the knowledge you need moving forward to prepare. Consider things like if the animal needs medication, if there will be behavioral challenges to work with, etc.
So what if you genuinely care about animals and understand their healing power, but perhaps you don’t want a pet? Or you can’t have one for some reason? Consider donating your time or money to a local shelter or rescue group as a kind gesture.
There is also the option to volunteer or foster to have an animal where you don’t have to worry about a long-term commitment. As animal welfare continues to grow and develop, integrating animal services with human services will become more apparent. Pets are an extension of the family and can be there to help during times of need.