October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month, and the Stewart C. Meyer Harker Heights Public Library has been celebrating all week with its programs. So it only made sense for library clerk Heather Heilman to dedicate Wednesday’s Science Time program to the topic, as well.
Heilman said, “We are helping celebrate and encouraging celebrating Adopt a Dog Month, and so I thought I would talk about the science of why having a pet is good for you.”
She led the discussion by saying that having any pet is beneficial (though she did emphasize dogs, in particular) in many different ways, starting with fitness. Walking one’s pets and playing with them outdoors helps to keep one active.
There are other health benefits, as well. Pets can help boost one’s immune system, and studies have shown that pets can help lower blood pressure, as well as lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels. In addition, heart attack patients who have pets have longer longevity than those without, and pet owners over the age of 65 tend to make up to 30 percent fewer doctor visits.
Heilman said that pets can provide social benefits, too, in that pets can help one meet and interact with others, for instance, when walking one’s dog. Also, she pointed out, people tend to be more approachable when out with an animal.
Having pets provide children with learning opportunities and teach children responsibility, Heilman said, as well as help them gain empathy, not only for animals but also for other people.
Heilman said that pets provide people with companionship. She said they help combat isolation, and noted that there was an uptick in pet adoptions during the pandemic for precisely this reason. Pets also alleviate loneliness, especially in the elderly.
Finally, Heilman discussed the mental health benefits of owning a pet. “It’s been said that a pet is better than Prozac,” she said, explaining that pets can help reduce anxiety and depression. She referenced therapy animals, saying that they are being used in hospital settings, and more people are using them not just as service animals, but for emotional support.
Heilman said that a pet’s needs are basic, as they require food, water and love, and will give unconditional love in return. Animals, she said, enrich our lives.