Research shows that owning a pet helps to decrease stress. Levels of oxytocin (the “feel-good” hormone) rise in the brain, just from petting or snuggling an animal friend. Pets can also reduce isolation by promoting human connection and real-life social networks. According to this survey conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health, “pet owners were 60% more likely than non–pet owners to get to know people in their neighborhoods they hadn’t known before.” Caring for a pet can have not just mental and emotional but physical benefits as well. For example, taking a dog out for daily walks helps people to meet their exercise needs.
Julie Barton’s new memoir, Dog Medicine: How My Dog Saved me from Myself, provides a personal and poignant glimpse into how her relationship with her dog helped her recover from life-threatening depression. In this interview with Mashable, Barton explains: "Nothing helped until I adopted a golden retriever puppy that I named Bunker…the first morning I woke up with him by my side, I knew I had something to live for."
Here are some resources for further exploration:
- Article: How Pets can Help Treat Mental Illness (KPBS)
- Locate a pet for adoption near you via PetFinder.
- Volunteer with your pet. TherapyPets is an all-volunteer California non-profit public benefit 501(c)(3) corporation that facilitates animal-assisted therapy in the greater San Francisco-Oakland Bay area.
- Pets for Vets: The Pets for Vets program is dedicated to supporting veterans and providing a second chance for shelter pets by rescuing, training and pairing them with America’s veterans who could benefit from a companion animal.
- Know Your Legal Rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): Psychiatric Service and Emotional Support Animals. (Disability Rights California).