By Dr. Becker
On this most joyous day, I’d like to reflect on the gifts our animal companions bring to our lives not just during the holidays, but every day of the year.
Five Gifts Our Pets Give Us
Our pets stay connected to us no matter how bad we feel or behave. They’re right beside us every step of the way, every minute of the day. During those times when we feel ignored and disengaged from the world, our pets offer unconditional connectedness.
Close, connected relationships evolve from clear, consistent communication. When communication is untrustworthy or used in a harmful way, the relationship breaks down.
Our pets “talk” to us constantly through their body language and behavior. It’s our job to learn the language they speak, and to communicate clearly to them what we expect and appreciate about their behavior.
- Staying in the moment
As humans, we spend considerable time feeling regret for something in our past, or feeling anxious about the future. It’s not time well spent, but most of us tend to live in the past or the future rather than the present moment.
Our pets, by their example, help us to stay present – to live for today. Our animal companions experience each moment as it arrives with enthusiasm and joy, and so can we if we follow their lead.
Most of us can remember a time when we ignored our pet, or lost patience and spoke too sharply. We also remember that our animal companion forgave us the very next second.
Our pets don’t hold grudges. They don’t punish themselves or us by clinging to past insults. They offer instant forgiveness and an open heart.
- A life in balance
Our animal companions are at their best when we provide them with consistency in the form of healthy nourishment, daily exercise, structure to their daily routine, and lots of love.
These are the “simple things in life” that are the foundation for a balanced, less stressful, and more joyful existence.
Want Even More Joy?
If you want to bring more gifts and joy into your life in the new year, consider adopting a homeless pet from your local shelter or rescue organization.
An adopted pet can enrich your life in countless ways. The unconditional love and loyalty of a dog, cat, or other animal companion can alleviate depression, ease loneliness, lower blood pressure, and give you a reason to get up every day.
There are few things as warm and comforting on a cold winter evening as a kitty asleep in your lap. If one of your goals for the new year is to get in shape, a dog that loves to walk or run outdoors can be just the incentive you need to start exercising regularly.
There are countless benefits to pet ownership, and when you know you saved your furry companion from an unpleasant fate, it makes the bond you share that much more meaningful.
If you're not in a position to provide a permanent home for a pet, but are interested in making a real hands-on difference in the lives of homeless pets, there are many ways to help, depending on your time, resources, and talents.
Many people volunteer at their local animal shelter for a certain number of hours each week or month, while others have pets in need come to them, by serving as foster families for animals awaiting adoption.
Pets are fostered for lots of different reasons, including:
- An overflowing shelter
- An animal with special needs – she might be pregnant or nursing, or recovering from an injury, illness, or surgery
- A kitten or puppy still too young to be adopted
- A pet showing significant stress-related behavior (pacing or hiding, for instance)
- An animal who has never lived in a home or had much contact with people who needs to be socialized to a home environment
Fostering triggers a positive domino effect. The more people willing to open their homes to foster pets, the more pets local shelters can accommodate -- and for longer periods.
This gives each animal the best shot at finding a new home.