Happiness in Pets

By Joanna Smykowski

Updated December 21, 2018

Reviewer Whitney White, MS. CMHC, NCC., LPC

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If you have ever had a pet, you know that they become part of the family and they bring tons of love and happiness to the household. Once you have a beloved pet, you can't imagine living without one. What exactly brings on the happiness you feel when pets are near?

Unconditional Love

Pets always put their owners first. They give absolute unconditional love. They are there when you are happy and want to play. They can also sense when you are sad, hurt, or not feeling well. Many pets will stay with their owners to make sure that they are safe and well. They have a mentality of looking out for their pack, so when they are part of your family, you become part of their animal group. They become very protective. When we offer them kindness, take care of them and give them positive attention, they are ours forever.

"When your children are teenagers, it's important to have a dog so that someone is happy to see you." - Nora Ephron

"A dog is the only thing on Earth that loves you more than he loves himself." - Josh Billings

"No matter how crappy your day is, there is always a happy face waiting for you to get home." - Unknown

"Until one has loved an animal a part of one's soul remains unawakened." - Anatole France

"Some angels choose fur instead of wings." - Unknown

"Home is where the dog is." - Unknown

Therapy Animals

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People with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), anxiety, depression, Alzheimer's, blindness, deafness, diabetes, and various other conditions have been given a new lease on life when they own or have access to a therapy animal. These types of pets are trained to be therapy animals and offer love, stress relief and happiness to those who are going through a hard time. Some libraries and animal shelters have dogs available to be with children while they read or work on other skills. The dog is non-judgmental and offers a listening ear to children who may be nervous about reading to another person.

"The best therapist has fur and four legs." - Unknown

Increased Movement

When you have a pet that has to be walked, it gives the owner the opportunity to get out and move without the thought of it being a hard exercise. Some animals need several walks a day, so it automatically gives the owner time to get outside and walk. This is a time when you can get some sunshine and vitamin D and burn some calories. Both can improve your mood and bring happiness to your day. In recent years yoga groups have begun incorporating animals into practice. Puppies, goats, rabbits, and other animals participate in the class. You can sign up for a goat yoga class and spend time bonding with goats. How could you not be happy when you are doing yoga with goats?

"They encourage us to play, be affectionate, seek adventure, and be loyal." - Tom Hayden

"Your speed doesn't matter. Forward is forward." - Unknown

Overcome Loneliness

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When you have a pet, you have a best friend. They are great listeners, and they don't talk back. They can make you feel less lonely because they are always with you. Many pets want to be near their owner, so you will feel a sense of someone always being with you…maybe even on top of you in your lap or lying next to you on the couch. If you live alone or have a spouse who travels a lot, pets can also give you a sense of safety.

"Happiness starts with a wet nose and ends with a wagging tail." - Unknown

"Animals are such agreeable friends - they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms." - George Elliot

Happiness Is A Warm Puppy

Way back in 1962, Charles Schulz of Peanuts/Snoopy fame wrote a book called "Happiness is a Warm Puppy." The entire book had pictures of the Peanuts gang along with a quote about happiness. The page with the above quote showed Lucy hugging Snoopy. If you know anything about Peanuts, you know that Lucy doesn't particularly like anybody or anything, except for Schroeder, the piano player. She especially dislikes Snoopy with his sloppy kisses and dog behavior. There is, however, one comic strip that shows hard-hearted Lucy hugging Snoopy and saying that happiness is a warm puppy. If a puppy can bring happiness to Lucy, it can bring happiness to anyone.

Instill Empathy

Children who have pets that they need to care for from a young age learn about empathy because they see how all living creatures need to be comforted and also feel pain. When they see that a pet responds to their care and feels better when they try to help them, children learn that they can make a difference in the life of a living thing. If they can understand that their pet has feelings and they understand and respond to those feelings, they are building empathy. Being compassionate is an important ability for all human beings to develop.

"We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals." - Immanuel Kant

Mood Brightener

There is an actual physiological response for those who pet animals. Petting an animal for even a short period gives our brains a signal to produce the hormones serotonin and oxytocin, which are soothing chemicals that make us feel more tranquil and peaceful. Feelings of peace and tranquility can be pure happiness for most people.

"Petting, scratching and cuddling a dog could be as soothing to the mind and heart as deep meditation and almost as good for the soul as prayer." - Dean Koontz

"Happiness is hugging your pet when you 're feeling sad." - Unknown

"Whoever said you can't buy happiness forgot about puppies." - Gene Hill

"My goal in life is to become as wonderful as my dog thinks I am." - Unknown

"You can't buy happiness, but you can rescue." - Unknown

"Whoever said diamonds are a girl's best friend never owned a dog." - Unknown

Social Support

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Taking your dog for a walk or to dog park gives you an automatic conversation starter. When meeting new people, you can share pictures of your favorite pet to also add to conversations or to make a connection with someone. If you have difficulty in social situations, knowing that you have a positive relationship with your pet may encourage you to reach out and make a social connection with another person.

"No one appreciates the very special genius of your conversation as much as the dog does." - Christopher Morley

" Not every person knows how to love a dog, but every dog knows how to love a person." - Unknown

"Leave me alone. I'm only talking to my cat today." - Unknown

The Sense of Being Needed

If you have been sad, your children have left home, you are retired, etc. and you are feeling that you aren't essential to anyone's life, getting a pet can give you back that sense of being needed. Pets are very dependent on their owners so having one can make you feel needed and loved. If you rescue an animal, especially one with special needs, you will have a focus for your time and love. When you have a pet, you will get out more to walk them and may meet new friends at dog parks. Being a caretaker can make you feel fulfilled and bring happiness to your day.

"Pets have a way of finding people who need them. And filling an emptiness we didn't know we had." - Unknown

"My sunshine doesn't come from the skies. It comes from the love in my dog's eyes." - Unknown

"Happy is the home with at least one cat." - Unknown

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If you're having a tough time connecting with others, feeling low, or having trouble adjusting to changes in life, talking with a professional can help. Going to BetterHelp (https://www.betterhelp.com/start/) can be your first step to getting the help you need. It is private, convenient and will be one of the best things that you can do for yourself and your wellness. At BetterHelp you attend sessions and send messages to therapists from home or on the go, which means your pet can attend sessions with you!

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