How Our Pets Help Us Heal

Last month, I experienced a devastating chain of events that changed my life forever. Thirty-six hours before I was scheduled to have a full hysterectomy, I lost my job. I spent four days in the hospital. When my husband brought me home, I was looking forward to a long recovery so my body could heal, and was optimistic about devoting the time I spent on the “other” job to focus on growing my pet-sitting and dog-walking business, full-time. Instead, I received a phone call, and the voice on the other end told me that my brother had died suddenly, leaving behind three small children and a devastated family.  The days leading up to his funeral were a blur – supporting my family, making funeral arrangements, visitation with caring folks that I hadn’t seen in years – and then the terrible day I had to bury my 42-year-old brother.

While I’m still struggling every day to fully recover mentally, physically and emotionally from the trauma of all those events, hope has replaced despair and something akin to happiness has replaced the feelings of immense sadness and loss. Peace has replaced anger – and I owe much of it to my fur-kids, Riley, Maddie and Biscuit.

You see, animals (mine and all those that I care for with Paws Pet Care every day) give me a reason to get out of bed every morning. They need to be walked.  They need to be fed. They need to see the vet. They need to be cared for. They need ME.

But, to be perfectly honest, their need for me is not the only thing that has helped me cope and heal in the last few weeks. I need them. I need to see their wagging tails and their smiling faces (of COURSE they smile!), greeting me at the door every day.  I need to feel their unconditional love and their complete and total happiness at seeing me, no matter how bad I look, no matter how sad I am or what shape I’m in, emotionally or physically.

I can’t tell you how many times in the last four weeks I have held or stroked my own pets, and even my clients’ pets, and just sobbed. And you know what? They have let me. Without judgement. Without speaking. Without that awkward, “what do I say now to help this person” silence. Their eyes speak volumes. Their gentle nudges, their paws on my shoulder and their tongues licking away the tears say louder than any spoken words, “I understand, and I love you.”

We sometimes forget how much animals help people, and even when we greatly love the pets and animals we care for, it’s all too easy to take them for granted. We can forget that they, too, care for us. And even scientists know that our pets have actual healing powers. When you stroke a cat or pet a dog, you experience a surge of healing hormones and chemicals that produce feelings of peace and serenity.

Healing relationships come in many sizes. Some have two legs, some have four legs and some even have fins or feathers. Do you have a Riley, Maddie or Biscuit in your life?

  • Thank you for writing this. It moved me to tears!!!

  • Jenna

    Sitting in my driveway, tears streaming down my face as I remember just 3 months ago losing my first love of 12 1/2 years…my dog Magic. I too found peace in the pets I care for. Several clients that knew what had happened asked if I was sure I wanted to work the weekend after his passing. YES! I need your pets more than they need me right now.

    Thank you for sharing!

  • My heart is touched by your story. Pet sitting is definitely a form of therapy for me.

  • Amy

    Thank you for writing this. It is so beautiful. I am so sorry for your loss.

  • Maggie Green

    This all sounds so familiar. When I lost my daughter I thought the world would surely end. Of course it did not and I had to go on. With the support of my loving husband and sons I also had the support of my fur babies. They can be so loving and understanding when their human parents are in physical or mental pain. They are always there with loving eyes and, yes, that smile. They know when we are in pain and they know when we are unhappy. I don’t know how they know these things but I know they do and they try so hard to make things better for us by just being there for us.
    We lost two of our fur babies this year. We find comfort in that they both lived long, happy lives. Our border collie was 14 and our Siamese was 15-1/2. We will forever miss them but will have great memories of our good times together. We adopted another shelter dog and she is quickly becoming an intricate part of our family. A few years ago I learned I am allergic to cat dander but there was no way I could part with Topaz. She was as much a part of my family as my children. However, we will not adopt another feline baby.
    Yes Beth, I totally agree with you. We need our fur babies as much as they need us.

  • Sara

    So very true. As a young girl I learned that no one loves you like your dog and each dog that enters my life carries on the legacy. Thanks for putting it into words.