Man’s Best Friend: How Pets can be the Best Support Group of All

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Whether you are entering your golden years, need someone to help you through the year, or recovering from your not-so-golden years, an emotional support animal can be a wonderful way to take on the future with a lovable partner by your side.

Although it may seem silly relating a cute and furry friend to a form of medication, interacting with animals can not only make you a happier person but also help you focus and increase your productivity no matter what stage of life you are currently in.

So, how is man’s best friend a form of therapy that doesn’t require pills and costly doctor visits? How can these emotional support animals truly help us in the long run and who can benefit the most from their help? Let’s take a look at how pets can really be the best support group of all by taking a look at who it helps, how it helps, and how you (or a loved one in need) can get a pet that can change your life forever. After all, who doesn’t love a little cuteness for a great cause?

senior citizen hugging a dog

Who It Helps: Seniors, The Disabled, and Individuals in Recovery

Although everyone could use a little bit of emotional support every now and again, emotional support animals are not for just anyone. In fact, vague rules regarding these animals have led to mass conflict in the last few years as thousands of individuals have been flocking to make their pets ESA certified simply for the freedom it gives them.

However, please know that there are people who actually benefit from getting an ESA certified pet, who aren’t simply taking advantage of the certification and who deserve the help these animals provide in life, love, and beyond.

Old Dogs, New Tricks

Although there are plenty of ways to keep healthy and happy after you retire, socialization and support are two of the most crucial. Whether you choose to stay in your home or move to a retirement community, by choosing an animal companion, you can continue to live an active and happy life, even when aging gets you down.

In fact, studies have shown that elderly people benefit from interaction with dogs due to the fact that it resolves the common issue of senior loneliness that must be faced when retiring and also allows them to focus their minds on something interactive whether it be through daily walks or even simply being in charge of feeding the animal. That’s why multiple assisted living facilities have chosen to implement animal therapy in their daily routines. In turn, pet therapy has changed assisted living time and time again and continued to reinvent the way we look at meaningful retirement tactics without fail.

Similarly, depression is a very common factor when it comes to aging and, by spending time with dogs and cats and showing affection to these animals, you can learn to break the cycle of negativity and gain a sense of purpose in return. Studies suggest that dog therapy helps with depression and can give the owner a connection to reality as well. In turn, you can begin your golden years with a golden retriever to match and learn what meaningful living truly means to you.

Mind over MUTTer

Living with a disability can often be a complete nightmare. In fact, whether it be mental or physical, most disabled individuals tend to suffer from severe depression and anxiety due to the obstacles simply living throws their way. As a person who suffers from Aspergers, I know all too well about the misconceptions commonly associated with Autism and what living with a disability truly means.

Having an emotional support animal can actually help you recover from anxiety attacks, give you the companionship you lack all too often in your life as a disabled individual, and allow you to turn away from depressing thoughts and focus on the happiness and love that a furry friend can supply you with. In turn, you can begin to learn how to control your depression and anxiety and live with your disability in a positive and nurturing way.

cute little pug standing on a wooden floor

Pugs Not Drugs

Although recovery is a long and difficult process, making the decision to turn your life around is a wonderful and fulfilling experience. However, who says you have to go down this path alone? In fact, multiple recovery programs have begun to use pets in their therapy process to help individuals find a sense of peace, mindfulness, and focus that other therapy options fall short on.

Although it might not be apparent at first, your emotional and mental state during recovery is painfully vital to the success you will have. For instance, if a person enters a recovery program skeptical and unwilling to change, they have a higher chance of failing in the long run. Studies show that mindfulness enhances recovery, so by learning to accept the things you cannot change and work on the things that you can, you can become one with your life and not revert back to the vices you once thought of so fondly.

In fact, out of all the people in America currently in recovery, forty to sixty percent will revert back to drugs when their rehab stay is over. Therefore, you must first learn to accept that you are addicted and want to change before you can begin your first steps towards a successful recovery. By having a support animal by your side, you can throw your vices to the curb and become addicted to their sheer cuteness instead (which is a totally healthy alternative).

How it Helps: Mindfulness, Focus, and Therapy

little black dog sleeping

Emotional Support Animals not only can help with your depression and anxiety but can also help you to overcome PTSD, learn how to focus, and accept the struggles you have faced in life. By using their love in your everyday routine, you can begin to put aside your bad memories and focus on the good for a life full of happiness and purpose alike.

I am One with The Borks

Okay, so perhaps that’s a tad bit corny, but can you blame me? Either way, learning how to be mindful in your everyday life can actually help you to find inner peace and determine goals for a future that are both allowing you mature as well as recover from aspects of your life you regret.

Mindfulness is especially helpful when you are aging as it allows you to set aside the stress that all too often comes along with growing older and learn to live a little. Similarly, this form of emotional therapy can be a wonderful way to recover from addiction even after you have left the rehabilitation center.

Recent studies have shown that addiction treatment has implemented pet therapy and, in turn, this form of recovery may become more and more prominent in the next few years. Mindfulness can also allow you to emotionally accept your disability and learn to grow because of it and the impact it has made on your life as a whole.

So, how do emotional support animals help us to find mindfulness? For one, animals help us live in the moment. They are capable of disrupting our work and thought process and bringing us back into reality which is a wonderful form of meditation practice. On top of this, a pet can sharpen your mindfulness skills as their focus is a wonderful model for how to focus in your own life. Through emotional support animals you can learn to be one with yourself and the world around you and find meaning even in the darkest of times. Pet therapy really is a wonderful resource for rehabs, physical therapists, and assisted living facilities alike.

Smart as a ‘Whippet’

It’s no surprise the dogs and cats are very smart and focused creatures. If you’ve never seen your cat open a door or a dog respond to sign language, then perhaps you have no idea how intelligent and focused these faithful companions can be. However, cats and dogs are actually surprisingly more intelligent than most people believe. For instance, a cat actually has more nerve cells in the visual area of the brain than both humans and dogs and has 300 million neurons in the brain whereas dogs only have 160 million. When it comes to dogs,their intelligence is equally impressive as dogs are capable of understanding human speech, emotions, and are even able to feel remorse for bad decisions they have made. With this said, by looking at how your emotional support animal focuses and learns new things, you can determine new ways to improve and grow in your own life and career (now, who’s a good boy?).

Get a ‘Cat Scan’

Although it may seem obvious, animals make us pretty happy. In fact, some psychologists believe that animals can actually be a form of therapy that requires no drugs or doctors whatsoever. By being able to talk to your dog or cat, and share a bond with them, you can let go of your struggles and move towards a loving and fulfilling future today.

Similarly, dogs and cats can actually understand when you are sick or having a medical emergency and can actually be trained to find help when these things occur. For disabled and elderly individuals, having a companion that can also save your life in the event of a calamity can be a great way to not only stay happy, but healthy as well.

How Can I Get an Emotional Support Animal?

fluffy little tan dog

Unfortunately, laws have become far more strict due to the abuse of the certification process. However, by reading up on how to get an emotional support animal and seeing whether certifying your current animal or adopting a new one is best for you, you can begin the process and see the results in no time. Furthermore, by knowing what is considered an appropriate reason for owning a support animal, you can ensure that you are not one of the many who are breaking the rules for this form of therapy. For instance, many individuals that suffer from a disaster at work consider getting an emotional support animal as a companion. By determining the worker’s compensation settlement you will receive, you can not only ensure that your case runs smoothly, but also ensure that your support animal is actually necessary according to your case specifications and, possibly, even receive an ESA as part of your settlement.

The most important part of all is that you and your animal are happy and the best of friends through thick and thin and, if they just so happen to save your life every now and again, who can blame you for throwing an occasional extra snack their way in return?

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About Author

Brooke Faulkner is an animal advocate and mother of two. When she's not writing, she can usually be found zipping around on her ATV. She first fell in love with animals as a young girl, on a family visit to a goat farm in New Hampshire. She's dreamed of adopting a Great Pyrenees ever since. To read more of her words, follow @faulknercreek.

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