Welcoming a Four-Legged Therapist into your Life 

By: Payton Hefright 

     According to uclahealth.org’s animal assisted therapy research, humans interacting with animals can have a number of positive effects on the mind and body. These effects include: lowering anxiety and helping people relax, providing comfort, reducing loneliness, lowering blood pressure, and diminishing physical pain. Many people who own pets will probably tell you that these things are true. While I had heard people constantly talk about their love for their dog, I hadn’t owned one since I was about four years old. Getting another dog was, however, a subject my siblings and I pestered our parents about for years to come. Yet there never came the right time in our busy lives until a few weeks ago.  

     Recently, Americans living in quarantine have found themselves unable to go to work, go on trips, or visit friends, and have decided to seek companionship from animals. Animal shelters have reported a spike in requests to foster and adopt dogs and cats, and many shelters are even emptying as the demand has gotten higher. For my family, being quarantined seemed like a good time to find a companion, but we also knew we had reached a point in our lives where we could keep an animal after this blew over, too. After making calls to many rescues far and wide, I contacted the Venango Humane Society and arranged to meet some of their rescues. This meeting was where I met my new bestie, a Cairn terrier named Halle. 

      If you’ve ever had the feeling of being liked by someone who doesn’t like many people, you’ll know it’s one of the best feelings in the world. When that someone is a dog, the good feeling is multiplied by a thousand. While we greeted her, she appeared timid, but immediately most comfortable with me, daring to crawl into my lap. While it is easy to be seduced by the concept of dog breeders get whatever breed, size, shape, color you want- rescuing is so much more rewarding. Halle slowly opened up after spending her first few nights on the couch with me, and we got to see her blossom into a noisy, smart, cuddly little dog with a talent for killing small rodents, which I take a particular pride in. As this quarantine slowly dragged into its second, third, fourth, week, I found myself lacking motivation, falling into a sense of monotony and frankly, depression. Having someone who is happy to see me every morning, who will go on long walks with me and is overjoyed at the simplicities of life, has been an incredible boost to my mental health. I earnestly recommend simply spending time with them, too, if you can’t foster or adopt. Dog sitting or just taking your neighbor’s dog on a walk can brighten your day. While dogs are great, you can’t forget our feline friends, either. There are plenty of cats brightening up someone’s isolation, too! 

     Unfortunately, we cannot keep our dear terrier friend for a few different reasons, and Halle will be going to another owner as soon as the shelter approves of them. Nevertheless, I will remain grateful for the positive impact she’s had on me in these tough times. While dogs are cute, their personalities and unconditional love are what makes them man’s best friend, so I encourage you to bring a dog into your life. Rescuing and fostering are great options, and the more shelters empty, the better! Each animal deserves a loving home, and if you have love to give, consider sharing it with one of the many dogs that are willing to give it back.  

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