What is the human-animal bond?
According to the Human-Animal Bond Research Institute, the “human-animal bond is a mutually beneficial and dynamic relationship between people and animals that is influenced by behaviors that are essential to the health and well-being of both. This includes, but is not limited to, emotional, psychological, and physical interactions of people, animals, and the environment.” I could not agree with this more. As most of you know, my family currently has three rescue dogs (Wren, Callie, and Marty), our first dog Foster and our two cats Charlie and Dude who have all since passed away. Each one has brought light into our lives in their own ways.
Pet Nation, Spoiled Dogs and Instagram Accounts
I have had the pleasure of reading Pet Nation: The Love Affair that Changed America, by Mark L. Cushing. This book focuses on the social and economical changes in pet ownership and animal welfare over the past few decades. Both social and economic forces made Americans look at their pets differently. They went from being property, chained to a fence outside to being treated as a child or best friend and sleeping in bed with their owners. Socially, pets became a way for people to meet and have something in common. When it comes to socializing through pets, there is no social status. As the author states, "Dogs and cats are equal, and people with pets meet as equals". This has helped to breakdown social barriers. People want to have pets to socialize. Media also plays a big role in the force of change. Social media and commercial ads have shifted to include pets who have their own social media pages (including my own @giantmartybyrde) and animals that play a part in ads for products that have little to nothing to do with pet ownership. Mental health is another social force that has drastically shifted the cultural and social framework for Americans and animals. It has been proven that the human animal bond is beneficial to one’s mental health. Not only are millennials choosing to get a dog to test how they would fare as parents, but individuals are adopting pets for their own health. Mark Cushing states that pets "don't argue or interrupt, unlike friends, family and business colleagues.". In other words, your pets do not judge you or others. They are loyal, loving companions who are there for you when you need them, allowing you to divulge your deepest secrets and feelings to a trusted best friend. Pet parents have evolved to treating their pets as their own children. This means buying expensive foods, dog beds, clothing, and costumes. They make sure that their pets are vetted annually. If their dogs are not allowed to go to work with them, they are sure to hire a dog walker or send their dog to a doggy daycare facility. The increase in the demand for pets as well as the commitment to one’s own pet, has caused an increase in jobs in the animal services field. It has produced and intensified so many jobs from veterinarians to trainers to boutique dog store owners.
*The face of depression * Self haircut to the scalp *My girl Wren who knew
something was wrong
The Depression is Real, The Bond is Real
I love all my dogs and their quirky personalities. Wren has always been a serious girl. She loves belly rubs, but she also loves her space. You will find her alone on the other couch at night when we watch TV. If someone or something is touching her while she is resting, she will get up and move. She does not like to snuggle and that is perfectly fine. In 2017, the stresses of life started to get to me. I started to suffer from anxiety attacks, insomnia, and self-loathing. Suddenly I could not barely get up in the morning, my young sons being left to themselves. I was able to get out of bed, get their lunches together and get them to school. I would come home and get back into bed, sit on the couch or at my work desk vacantly staring, thinking of all the things I had to do but being incapable of doing them. So how does this all connect? This lasted weeks and every single day, Wren was by my side. She would lay up against my body, her head on my chest. She knew I was suffering, and she was there to comfort me. A dog who does not like to snuggle was now stuck to my body. It took weeks (and a dangerous haircut my son gave himself) for me to seek help. I was diagnosed with depression and thankfully received the medical and emotional support I needed to get better. When I think back to that time and how dark it was, I remember Wren. I remember how she knew something was terribly wrong and how she laid by my side, making sure I knew I was not alone.
*Don't all dogs get bacon funfetti cake for
Benefits of the Human-Animal Bond
There are so many benefits to adopting a pet. The Lone Tree Veterinary Medical Center has this great list on their website in support of the benefits of the human-animal bond.
· Stress reduction – Petting an animal has been shown to reduce stress in humans. Lowered blood pressure is often the result of the extra exercise and lowered stress that can accompany pet ownership.
· Increased healing and independence – Service and therapeutic animals are invaluable to their handlers, providing help with daily tasks, emotional and mental support, and recovery from traumatic events.
· Improved mood – Studies show that the simple act of stroking a friendly animal increases dopamine and serotonin levels in the brain, two chemicals that are essential for happiness and relaxation.
· More physical activity – Caring for a pet involves some degree of physical activity, and living with a pet that needs a daily walk or play session is an excellent way to get off the couch and out the door.
· Immunity boost – Children who grow up with animals in the home have been shown to have fewer allergies and are less likely to develop asthma than those who aren’t raised with animals.
· Social connections – Thanks to their many needs, pets provide us with numerous opportunities to get out and interact with our friends and neighbors. This is especially helpful for seniors or others who may be less likely to incorporate a social activity into their daily lives.
Emotional support – Your pet doesn’t care how much money you make, what type of car you drive, what you look like, or whether or not you wear name-brand clothes. Pets provide us with impartial, unconditional emotional support and love.