Many studies have shown that bonding with animals reduces stress and anxiety in humans
The past decade has seen a significant rise in stress levels among young adults. According to a recent report published by Statistics Canada, 23% of young adults aged 15 and above reported experiencing “extreme” stress and anxiety on a regular basis, and the numbers only spiked (30%) among adults aged 35-54. (Stats Can, 2018)
Today, social and technological advancements have made more resources and facilities available to us in comparison to what the world had a few years ago. And with this, strong support system remains a key factor in maintaining a balanced lifestyle and good mental health; which for pet owners, their pets are a significant part of.
“I suffer from diagnosed anxiety and at this point in my life was looking for a companion and was worried about the potential challenge of adopting a dog,” says Virginia See, owner of an Australian Shepherd called Lola.
See says that she now understands why having a pet is so therapeutic for some people. “For me, it’s the companionship and having something that no matter what loves me unconditionally. I could be gone for 10 minutes or 2 days and I get the same excited reaction every time I come through the door.”
“I remember the second night I had Lola; she had been vomiting from heat exhaustion, and I was on the floor crying while cleaning up after her. In that very moment, I could not get over how I could love something so small so quickly after only having her 2 nights,” says See.
Hana El Zohiry, a Guelph-Humber alumna, and owner of a German Shepherd called Phenix , says that owning a pet provided her with significant stability. “A German Shepherd thrives off routine – so she always eats at the same time and needs to go out to do her business at the same time every day. There are times in the day when she’s hyper and others when she just wants to sleep. So she really did help create a routine at home,” says Zohiry.
She’s quick to mention that no matter how stressed-out she feels during the day due to her workload, Phenix never fails to brighten it up.
“Going to work for 8 hours and coming home to a dog that’s just so excited to see you is one of the best feelings in the world. She’s my best friend!” says Zohiry.
Jana Gregorio, proud parent to a 5-year old Labradoodle, Milo, agrees. “He makes me so happy. I could be in a bad mood or just feeling restless in general, and he just comes and snuggles in my lap or sits next to me; that’s instant comfort, simply because of the amount of love involved. There’s nothing complicated about it, nothing conditional. It’s therapeutic,” she says.
On being asked how she met Milo, Gregorio says that her parents had been looking for a puppy for quite a while, and when they saw Milo, they knew he was the one. “His brothers and sisters were right at the front, but he was huddled in a corner. My mother saw him and was attracted instantly.”
“It’s a strong connection; you can’t really put that feeling in words, you know? You feel it, and you just know,” Gregorio, on seeing Milo for the first time.
In cases, unlike some, animals leave no stone unturned in showing affection and expressing how they feel while being picked. “Phenix specifically bonded with me right away, coming to my lap and nuzzling in as if asking for attention and to be pet. All the other puppies were just jumping and being a little crazy, but Phenix was calm, slowly trying to gain our trust,” says Zohiry.
Her father always wanted a German Shepherd for a pet, and so they looked in several places before landing on the one with Phenix. “Phenix is a pure-breed German Shepherd from Erin, Ontario; we visited the breeder and absolutely fell in love with her,” says Zohiry.
Reflecting on some of the lessons they’ve learnt along the way, all three owners put emphasis on how important it is to research before buying/adopting a pet, and to make sure that new owners are ready for that responsibility. “I think one major thing for any potential dog owner to know is to research the breed really well – if you live in an apartment, it’s smarter to get a smaller dog, because bigger dogs need space. Also, owning a dog (or a pet in general) takes time, commitment and patience, so make sure you can invest,” says Zohiry.
“Owning a pet is difficult if you’re by yourself and have a hectic job,” says Gregorio. “It’s a little easier for me right now because I live with my parents. So there is someone around to look after Milo when I’m not home. But once I move out, I don’t think I would keep buy/adopt a pet right away as much I’d love to. You need to make sure that you have that figured out beforehand,” she says.
“To be honest, I had no idea what I was getting in to. My parents took a long time to convince when it came to letting me get a dog of my own; it’s a huge responsibility, but so worth it,” says See.
“You need to understand that you are adding a life to your family and not an accessory.”
She says that is feels training a pet feels mentally rewarding, and hence, therapeutic. “Part of why I chose the Australian shepherd was because of how smart they are. Training is also amazing bonding time. If I had it my way I would adopt all of the dogs in the world, but for now I will continue to grow with my puppy and hopefully someday soon we will be able to rescue her a sibling,” says See.
Meet Milo, Phenix, and Lola
Animal rescue shelters near Etobicoke