I returned yesterday from hours of dental work (after another three hours of dental work two weeks ago, all for a broken tooth) and curled up on the sofa feeling dizzy and weak. Trystan trotted over and looked closely at my expression, his little brown eyebrows furrowed with worry over my state. I reached over to rub his neck, which he loves, and he circled around and jumped up on the sofa next to me. He scooted the blanket around with his nose and snuggled close, easing my distress with his presence and concern. The pain of my hours at the dentist melted away as my breathing fell into rhythm with Trystan’s, what the Heart Math Institute has termed “Heart Coherence.” Together we dozed on the sofa, until I recovered from my dental woes.
Petting a dog has been shown to lower a human’s blood pressure, a test whose results I reproduced at a veteran’s home where I worked. We had five therapy dogs visiting with residents known to have elevated blood pressures, and after ten minutes of being with the dogs while I presented information about therapy dogs, the veterans with the dog contact saw dramatic drops in blood pressure, up to 50 points in the top number. Researchers have also found that the survival rates of people after a heart attack improves for pet guardians–a one year follow up showed that 50 of 53 pet owners were alive, compared to only 17 of 39 non-pet owners.
A pet decreases loneliness, improves your likelihood of exercise, and it has been demonstrated that the presence of a pet when a person is doing math problems decreases the number of errors made. It has been shown that children in homes with pets have decreased allergy symptoms and are less likely to develop allergies. And as I can attest after being in NYC after 9-11 with my corgi Comet, the presence of therapy dogs is extremely beneficial for people grieving after traumatic life events. Dogs, and other therapy animals such as rabbits, cats, and guinea pigs are helping children learn to read, thanks to school and library programs welcoming animals. Dr. Bernie Siegel, famous surgeon, pioneer in mind/body medicine, and author of “Love, Animals, and Miracles” discusses the many healing benefits of animals in all of his books.
The presence of animals in our lives is a miracle. Every day, I am grateful for Trystan, the birds and squirrels in my yard, and all of the animals in our natural world. We are so fortunate to share the earth with the animals.