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Pawsitive Connection: The Power of the Human-Animal Bond

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“She saved my daughter’s life, licking her face to wake us both awake- just in time.”

“He wandered up to my door looking for food and water. Like clockwork, he was there every night when I pulled in the driveway from work. I didn’t realize it then but looking back, 10 years later, I know now that he was there to help me. Funny to think I thought I was just helping him. I was suffering from depression and I can’t tell you how many ways he helped me. When I officially adopted him I began taking him for walks, visiting the dog park- I became more social and therefore happier…I’ll never underestimate the human-animal bond.”

“She woke us all up before a fire. Saved our lives.”

“He sits with my son as my son practices his reading to him…My son has multiple learning disabilities and I can tell you there is no bigger blessing than the unconditional love of a pet.”

The term “Human-Animal Bond” seems to be thrown around a lot these days, but in order to grasp its full meaning, we’ve shared a few quotes (above) from our blog readers, supporters and social media followers- demonstrating the power of connection. We’ve witnessed companion animals helping those with special needs (both children and adults), helping their adopters to cope with the loss of a loved one, helping their adopters adapt to a major life transformation (i.e. empty nest syndrome), and we know quite a few pets who have saved the lives of their humans.

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WHIO News/Advocates 4 Animals Television Appearance (2012): Kim, Stacey (A4A Director/co-founder) and Amy (A4A CFO and co-founder)

There truly is a bond that exists between humans and their companion animals. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve shared your life with them for one year or twenty, that bond exists and often begins the very moment you open your heart and home to save an animal in need.

In 2005 the AVMA (American Veterinarian Medical Association) published an article noting a survey of more than 2,000 pet guardians in the United States. The study found that “Sixty-two percent of cat and dog owners said their pets helped them relax and relieved stress. And 59 percent of dog owners and 37 percent of cat owners thought their furry companions were good for their health and would help them live a longer life.”

Evidence of the human-animal bond exists throughout history. Did you know…

  • Cats were kept by ancient Egyptians as pets. When a cat died, its owner would shave their eyebrows to signify to others in the community that he/she was mourning the death of their cat.*
  • Historical evidence of what could have been an affectionate bond between people and dogs is suggested by the finding of a 14,000 year old human female skeleton, buried with her arms wrapped around the remains of a dog in an ancient Israeli burial site.*

So while the term human-animal bond is being tossed around a lot as of late, its origins are derived from a far earlier time. 

Police dogs help fight crime. Military dogs work to identify drugs and potentially dangerous explosives. Dogs helped rescue lives after 9/11. Both cats and dogs serve as therapy animals providing their services in hospital and nursing homes around the country. Cats bring smiles to millions at Cat Cafe’s around the globe. Trained dogs and cats volunteer their services at funeral homes, assisting families during their most difficult times. Dogs are showing us how they can sniff out cancer- and very early on. Animals will never cease to amaze me.

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source: http://lasresan.se/2012/12/

“Among other benefits, animals have been demonstrated to improve human cardiovascular health, reduce stress, decrease loneliness and depression…” Shared Pets Are Wonderful (based in San Francisco, CA). One of the earliest studies, published in 1980, found that heart attack patients who owned pets lived longer than those who didn’t. Another early study found that petting one’s own dog could reduce blood pressure.

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Photo of Grandma on a trip to NYC with our A4A Director/her guardian.

Whether you’re interested in feelings or in scientific data (or possibly, both!) the verdict is in- the human-animal bond does exist and its mystical powers continue to be just that- simply amazing. In our Advocates 4 Animals Executive Director’s new book, Pawsitive Connection, more than a dozen short stories of the human-animal bond are shared. The story of Grandma, a senior Chihuahua who was deemed “viscous and unadoptable” at the shelter came to Advocates 4 Animals back in 2011 and taught our director the following lessons (Grandma’s story is shared in Pawsitive Connection):

  • It’s okay to be goofy with the ones you love. Who cares what you look like? Happiness and laughter are what life is all about.
  • It doesn’t matter how old or young you are- when you have the opportunity to run through the grass with your bare feet, do it with wild abandon!
  • Never stop being curious. Adventure can always be found when your eyes are open.
  • It’s okay to growl when you’re upset. It’s healthy to show your true emotions.
  • When you see someone you love- show excitement (don’t hold back)!
  • It’s okay to ask for help. When you’re too tired to keep going, ask for help and it will come.
  • Don’t hide yourself away. Be proud of who you are. When you are your authentic self you will undoubtedly make others smile.
  • Always sleep in the position that is most comfortable. No questions asked.
  • It’s okay to bury your head under the covers when you don’t want to get up in the morning. Sometimes a few more minutes of quiet can go a long way.
  • Barking is good! If something doesn’t seem right, speak up!
  • Enjoy the sunshine. Get outside daily and bask in the light- you’ll be glad you did.
  • Never underestimate the power of love and loyalty.

Now it’s your turn. What have your pets taught you? We would love to hear from you! Share your thoughts in the comments below or on our social media pages.

To order your copy of Pawsitive Connection: Heartwarming Stories of Animals Finding People When We Need Them Most, click the title. The book is available in both paperback and Kindle editions. A portion of the proceeds benefit animal rescue and adoption efforts.

 PawsitiveConnectionPaperbackCOVER

*Source: Society of Companion Animal Studies

*Book Cover/Source: Rockville Publishing

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