A paw to cry on

In the past week I have had the misfortune of having to take my new baby into hospital because he wasn’t well. No sympathy required – he is fine now! During the few days he was in, I noticed a poster advertising the services of the Sussex PAT dogs which caused me to think about how effective  our pets can be at solving our fears and woes. After all, a problem shared is a problem halved – even if the recipient of the problem has a waggy tail and a wet nose!

In my more recent predicament, I have to be honest and say our menagerie didn’t do much to help reduce my stress levels. I came back one night from the hospital to find cat vomit encased in a cocoon of ginger fur on the stairs courtesy of Feargal, who has the dubious honour of being our fluffiest cat. The following evening the dogs, who were suffering from hyperactivity as a result of lack of exercise, were particularly excitable due to a mouse running riot in the downstairs loo. Feargal was again suspect number one for letting his prey escape and catching the mouse at 11.30 in the evening didn’t assist my sense of humour.

However, in general I do believe that pets definitely have an important role to play in helping improve our outlook when things aren’t going well. Whether this is just lifting the spirits a little on a low day or helping someone who is lonely or depressed. Without getting too deep and meaningful there is something uplifting about caring for an animal that provides unconditional love and doesn’t suffer from any of the emotional stresses and strains that many people have to endure. Owning a pet provides a pleasant diversion from the troubles of everyday life and personally I find it hard not to relax when there is cat purring on my lap (until a fur-ball is hooked-up, that is!)

For those who aren’t fortunate enough to own their own pet but who would benefit from the positives that come with contact from one, “PAT” dogs and cats exist! PAT stands for “Pets as Therapy” which is a charity founded to facilitate contact between sick, lonely, despondent or unhappy people and a happy relaxed pet!

“They provide therapeutic visits to hospitals, hospices, nursing and care homes, special needs schools and a variety of other venues by volunteers with their own friendly, temperament tested and vaccinated dogs and cats”*. PAT dog and cat visits provide people with the pleasure of contact with a happy animal and brings everyday life closer - these benefits cannot be underestimated.

 The charity is always looking for new “PAT” dogs and cats. All potential applicants have to pass tests to make sure that they have the right temperament and are suitable for the important job in hand. Owning a PAT dog or cat can be just as rewarding as receiving the “therapy” and if you are interested in registering your pet, then contact details for the charity can be found on their website – www.petsastherapy.org.

So, while I don’t think that any psychiatrists out there need to be worried about being out of a job, we should never underestimate the positive role that having a pet in your life can provide. Yes, a dog poop on the kitchen floor first thing in the morning does test the patience but these minor indiscretions are far outweighed by all the good times! Next time your pet is in the bad books, maybe it’s time to cut him or her some slack – unless it’s the 4th mouse in the house that day of course….!

*Reference from www.petsastherpay.org.