Whether they are furry, feathery, scaly or hairless, pets groom us to be better humans. “Animals are fascinating, engaging and entertaining. But as companions, they connect with us on a deeper emotional level,” said Dr. Victor Erenberg of Island Holistic Vet Center. “They often provide us with affection, love and even protection. The relationships we have with our pets is often symbiotic. Pets make us happy and often healthier, as they are known to lower our blood pressure and help with anxiety among other things. Humans are always better off with animals.”
Erenberg was drawn to animals since a very young age. “The most rewarding aspect of being a veterinarian is reuniting a recently sick or injured pet back to their owner after the pet has been healed,” he said.
Similarly, Laura Tipton, adoption facilitator at Hilton Head Humane, enjoys enabling the bond between a pet and pet owner. “All of us that work at Hilton Head Humane would probably agree on one thing: We love animals. We believe in their worth and the fact that every animal deserves a loving home of its own.”
Like Erenberg and Tipton, our family has cared for a variety of animals, thus our home has been nicknamed the Edwards Urban Ark. We have fostered, adopted, and/or rehabbed cats, dogs, birds, frogs, turtles, lizards, hairless guinea pigs, ducks, chickens, goats, ferrets and bunnies, as well as squirrels, chipmunks, raccoons, and one baby deer. Though each animal and its time with us was different, each enriched our lives. Here are five ways a pet will enhance your life too.
“The happiness a pet offers can be measured in the joy and stability they bring to your life,” Tipton said. To the point, think back to a bad or stressful day you had. had. Maybe it was work related or unsettling news about a friend or family member. The thoughts and emotions that emerged are real, and you need to process them. Pets can be a great part of that process. The wag of a dog’s tail, the shenanigans of a ferret, the curl up and cuddle time with a cat… remind us there is goodness in this world, and our moods are elevated.
“Pet owners know that come rain or shine, their pet needs to be exercised. How many times have you been walking your dog in a driving rainstorm, begging them to do their business? That’s some exercise right there,” Tipton joked. But it is true. Pets make us move. Even when Netflix and our couch are calling us like some siren song, our pets motivate us to lace up instead of veg out.
“People can learn about unconditional love from a pet; that makes this world a happier place to reside,” Tipton said. You’ve probably experienced this. Except if their food bowl is empty, it is a judgement-free zone with our pets. They love us even when we are having a hard time loving ourselves. The love they bring to the home truly does elevate our environment.
“There are so many feel-good stories about animals, but as one example on Hilton Head, many of my clients are retirees or elderly, and many are widowed,” Erenberg said. “Often, the pets that were previously owned together with their lost loved ones are now the only connection they have to that person. These companions are a spiritual bridge to the other side. They are incredibly important emotionally.”
Pets have taught our family about life and death in a good way. When we lose a pet, we are reminded of the impermanence of life and the importance of making memories and enjoying our time here.
Even if you have a pet lizard who essentially needs to be under a heat lamp, pets force us to be responsible. From budgeting for their care and arranging pet sitters or lodging when we travel to committing to their daily routine, pets make us get our Shih Tzu together.
a) Are you looking for a pet that doesn’t need to be walked regularly?
b) Are you looking for a pet that has a moderate amount of energy?
c) Are you cool with a high energy companion that needs to exercise or at least be walked daily?
a) Do you live in a condo or apartment without much of a yard or neighborhood to walk in?
b) Do you live in mid-sized space or have a nearby walkable loop?
c) Do you live in a space that includes a spacious backyard or extensive walkable pathways?
a) Are you gone most of the day, or do you travel a lot?
b) Are you a “nine-to-fiver” and home on the weekends?
c) Do you work from home or have flexibility in your schedule?
a) Do you need to stay within a certain budget like no more than $20 to $30 a month?
b) Are you mindful of your spending but willing to invest in things like high quality pet food?
c) Are you all in and good with investing in higher priced options like a dog trainer or food sourcing a company like Farmer’s Dog?
a) Are you okay with cleaning a habitat regularly?
b) Are you more of a “once a week I’ll scoop out the litterbox” kind of person?
c) Would you prefer a pet that “does its mess” outside?
If you answered mostly option a), consider getting a smaller, more manageable, more affordable pet like a parakeet or diamond dove (birds like conures are expensive and do need more care), a reptile like a chameleon, or a guinea pig. If you answered mostly option b), think about getting a ferret, bunny, an adult cat, or even a mature dog. And if you answered mostly option c), an energetic pet like a puppy or kitten is pawing at your future.