One of the first things my husband and I did after our honeymoon was adopt a chubby little 8-week old mutt from a local shelter (she was born at the shelter because her mom was dropped off pregnant – how sad!). Her name is Emmylou and I’ll be inserting photos of her throughout this post. Because I’m obsessed with her. And because I can. But for the record, I do love kitties, bunnies and all other animal life, too.
It’s been about a year having Emmy. I grew up with a mutt and have always loved dogs, but being one of two sole caregivers and a fully-fledged adult, my perspective on owning a pet has broadened. The following is what I’ve found.
1. Pets improve our mood
It’s not a huge secret anymore that caring for a pet has been shown to lower stress, reduce depression and anxiety, and increase energy. Multiple studies have shown that people who have pets in their lives have shown increased levels of the brain chemicals dopamine and serotonin (source). A 2009 study by Miho Nagasawa of Azabu University in Japan found that one’s level of oxytocin (aka, The Happy Feeling) raised intensely after interacting with their dogs. And it’s a simple fact that the happier you are, the more positive and optimistic you are about the challenges or tasks you need motivation for during the day and week. For example, our fearless founder Beth estimates that it only takes 8 minutes to unload a dishwasher and do the dishes. (She also had some help from her pup, Mayor, to do it!) In short, being happier motivates you to get shit done.
2. Pets add structure and routine to our day
Many pets, especially dogs, require a regular feeding and exercise schedule. So no matter what your mood is, you’ll always have to get out of bed to feed, exercise, and care for your pet. I know firsthand that – even the days we would really rather not – we have to get up before 7am every day to take Emmy out and feed her. It can be annoying, but having a regular sleep regimen is very crucial to one’s health. Pictured here is Emmy in our bed, waiting impatiently to be taken outside in the morning. The good news is, she’s a way cuter alarm clock than my phone and it’s nearly impossible to sleep through her whining like you can with a real alarm.
3. Pets are good motivators for exercise
Speaking of exercise, let me elaborate a bit more. (Side note: I know this point leans toward dogs, but I have definitely seen more than one cat on a leash taking a walk in my neighborhood. So, while that might a byproduct of living in Southern California, it’s possible and it happens.) In any case, here’s a simple truth I’ve discovered: if I’m not feeling motivated to exercise after a long day of work and traffic, my dog does not care. Granted when she was a brand new puppy, she didn’t exactly understand the concept of “walking” (pictured above), but now she’s a one-year old dog with a lot of energy that needs to be exercised. Guess how many hikes my husband and I did before getting a dog? Zero. Now, we take her on a hike at least twice a week. Proof here. Speaking of proof: a 2006 Canadian study found that dog owners walked an average of 300 minutes per week, compared with non-dog owners, who walked an average of 168 minutes per week. Also, if you’re like me and work from home one or more days a week, a lunchtime walk around the block absolutely brings some added refreshment. I focus much better for the rest of the afternoon after taking a short walk in the middle of my day with Emmy than I do without it.
4. Pets force us to keep our houses tidy
Simply put, if you don’t keep your place clean, your pet can get into trouble and make a huge mess of the place. Example A shown here. Before having Emmy, I would never check anything before leaving the house. Now, I have to make sure everything is picked up off the ground and there isn’t anything out on the counters that she could potentially attack (she’s small, but a jumper!). In her defense, she’s a really well behaved dog now and if I forget to put something away it’s usually fine these days, but the scene pictured here has happened and is a reality, so I choose not to risk it. Shedding aside, our apartment is much more tidy than it was before her and any mess she makes is because we didn’t clean up ours.
5. Pets remind us of the simple things
We’ve written before about the need to unplug from your digital life before. Here’s some good news: interaction with our pets is just that. Author John Homans presents in his book, “What’s a Dog For?”, a simple argument for why a pet is a great asset to one’s life. He argues that pets “take us back to simpler modes of interaction… in a world of email and texting and videoconferencing, a relationship with a [pet] is unmediated by technology.” I tend to agree with Homans, considering even when I try to look at my computer, I have a cute little furry face distracting me from it. Sure, she might be a distraction sometimes, but overall, a healthy distraction isn’t so bad.
PSA: No dogs were harmed in the making of this blog post; however, one was very spoiled.
About this blog: Joy. We want your life to be full of it. That’s why each Friday at Bneato Bar we write about ways to add more of it to your life. At the end of the day, it’s why we do what we do.