So the saying goes, however, this week I’ve decided to write about “a man’s best friend” and the simple pleasures and positive effects that owning dogs and other animals can bring to our lives.

My “best friend” is Alfie who has been with me since he was 8 weeks old and yesterday it was his 13th birthday. During that time he has seen me through some pretty tough times. Obviously he can’t talk to me like my friends and family can but having him around through difficult times had a positive influence on me. His mood is always consistent – happy. The greeting he gives me when I have been out, regardless of whether I have been 30 minutes or 6 hours, is exactly the same, one of pure happiness. Every morning when I wake up he is raring to go, there are no bad days, just happy days, as his wagging tail will testify. His love is unconditional.

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Apart from the obvious pleasures that owning animals bring there are also many health benefits. Stroking a pet helps reduce stress and can help to lower blood pressure. Studies also show that owning a dog or a cat reduces the chances of cardio vascular disease.   It is also believed that children who are exposed to pets early in their life have a lower risk of developing allergies or asthma. Children also learn about responsibilities if they help to look after an animal. They are usually able to look after a hamster or guinea pig quite easily as they do not require any exercise.

Another benefit of owning an animal is they can help combat loneliness, especially in later years if a partner is left on their own after the death of a spouse, whether someone has a dog, cat, goldfish or hamster they will require feeding and a routine.

I recall reading about a couple who had lost their son in a tragic accident. He had owned a few horses. They couldn’t bring themselves to sell them so decided to keep them and found that just by following their daily care routine of mucking out, changing water, feeding hay etc they still felt very close to their son. It helped them through their grieving process and gave them a purpose.

It has been well documented that people who have dogs lead far healthier lifestyles than people who don’t. One of the main reasons is people who own dogs take regular daily exercise. Come rain, hail or snow a dog requires exercise and will want to go out. There is also the social side of owning a dog and I have made many good friends over the years. It’s amazing how dogs are natural ice-breakers, dog owners usually know the dog’s names before their own and then as time goes by and friendships blossom, they discover each other’s names.

More and more hospices are allowing animals to visit terminally ill patients as they believe that petting a cat or dog can raise levels of serotonin and dopamine which are the “feel good” chemicals which in turn can help ease pain.

Sadly, some people would like a dog but due to lifestyle or work commitments it is not possible but there are still ways to be around animals and share some of the benefits they can bring.

There is a very worthwhile charity called the Cinnamon Trust (www.cinnamon.org.uk)  whose primary objective is to respect and preserve the treasured relationship between owners and their pets. It provides a national network of over 15,000 volunteers to provide practical help when any aspect of day to day care poses a problem, for example, walking the dog for a housebound owner.   Imagine what a wonderful act of kindness this would be.

Alternatively, there is a company called “Borrow my Doggy” which introduces dog owners to trusted local dog borrowers/walkers.  So it is still possible to experience the health benefits, joys and happiness that dogs can bring without having to own one.

I would be very interested to hear about your animals and how they bring love and happiness to your daily life.

Wishing all my readers a happy and love filled week.

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