While I was hiking in a national park over the weekend (Zions in case you were wondering), I met a couple from Nevada who was spending the week camping and hiking with their dog. I like dogs fine, but I was shocked to learn that he did all of the hikes with them considering that Zions has a no dog policy. But aha! They found a loop hole. While regular (read: boring) dogs are not allowed in the national park, therapy dogs are. And their little pooch was a certified therapy dog and was allowed to accompany them on all of their adventures.
This reminded me about a young girl in my neighborhood that had some troubling things happen to her. Instead of whipping out their Cigna health insurance card and pumping her with anti-depressants and hoping she would get over it, her parents got her a dog. Now some of you might say she was given the puppy because she was spoiled or because her parents felt bad for her, but it is proven that having a pet can be beneficial to your health.
The biggest way dogs can benefit your health is mentally. In a word, it is companionship. And dogs provide the perfect companion for many. This young girl needed someone that she felt would love her unconditionally, and dogs are known for their unconditional love and devotion to their owners. And this companionship extends to cats as well. Ever heard of the crazy cat lady down the street? That old spinster that never got married found companionship in her cats. They know that hand that feeds them and can quickly become like family.
Spending time with your pet can also decrease feelings of stress and anxiety, researchers say. It also gives you a sense of importance. The dog needs you for simple things like food and water, but is not so reliant as to need help walking. So it can give a new owner a great sense of ownership without too much responsibility.
There are also roundabout health benefits. Dogs require exercise. And often that requires the owner to take them for an exercise. And by default you are getting exercise as well, which is all around good for you.
Having a pet can also boost allergy immunity some studies argue. Some feel that having a pet will only aggravate allergies (and that might very well be the case), but some argue that having a dog while growing up will help you become immune to allergens like pet dander.
While having a pet might provide a whole slew of health benefits, physical and mental, it is important to mention that is it also a responsibility. Your dog or cat will require adequate food and water. It will also need attention and love, instead of neglect. And most importantly, you must clean up after your animal. I have been to many houses that do not clean up after their animals and they could easily be condemned.