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The Difference a Dog Can Make When You’re Chronically Ill

Did you know that some positive findings of interacting with a therapy dog include reduced levels of pain and anxiety? Therapy for chronic illness takes different shapes. Being chronically ill means that some days it becomes a challenge to complete the simplest task. Constant fatigue wears on an individual whether physically or psychologically, and a rush of hopelessness and frustration can easily overcome one on a daily basis.

A strong support base is essential for individuals suffering from chronic illness. This support base primarily consists of family, friends, and support groups, all of which can have an extremely high influence on mood and behavior – for many other patients, this support base consist of their dogs.

Growing up, my family always had pets in the house; whether it was a gerbil, bird, or fish. The one domesticated animal which I never called a ‘pet’, were my dogs. Instead of pets, I always introduced our guests to Ginger, Coco, Ziggy, Bear, Boo, and Kernel as part of the family. What if I told you dogs have an enormous effect on humans psychological and physical well-being? You probably wouldn’t think I’m crazy, right?

Well, not surprisingly, there is research that suggests that “petting a dog can lower risk of heart attack, stroke, and seizure by soothing people and lowering their stress and anxiety”.

Whenever I am feeling down, I turn to my dogs to bring me back up. They never show judgment and are always compassionate. I remember at times even talking to my dogs as if they were my therapists! Not only do they listen passionately, but they ensure I get my daily exercise as well.

Every day is different and with the blink of an eye, the best day ever can take an 180 degrees change. Chronic illness can closely associate with isolation – when an individual is in seclusion day-after-day, depression and anxiety root themselves deeper. Meanwhile, according to the National Center for Health Research, “dogs encourage social interactions, especially with strangers”! This human interaction is the rope to pull your way out of the dark hole of isolation.

Spanky (my french bulldog) is the king of turning a bad day into a great one, very quickly. There’s just something about a french bulldog that just makes you laugh. Aside from his little stocky body, his unbelievable snoring habits and his addiction to car rides, he is an awesome listener. There is something special about a dog that entitles them not to be called a pet. It is as if they could easily perceive an individual’s problems and genuinely want to care and nurture them.

Dogs are extremely loyal to their owner as well. I can attest to this first-hand – to the best of their abilities, my dogs never leave my side. Here I am a 22-year old adult walking around the streets of Boston with a posse of dogs, small and large.

I don’t know where I would be without my dogs. They challenge me when I’m feeling low and always welcome me with open paws – I will be forever grateful for my dog family. Henry David Thoreau once said, “it often happens that a man is more humanely related to a cat or dog than to any human being.” I urge patients that are chronic ill and are in a difficult situation to look into a therapy dog, for he or she could change your life for the better!

Written by: Jared Nimblett – Founder of Worry No Mow Yard Service


Fun Facts: Pet Therapy 

National Center for Health Research 

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