When it comes to family, we usually first think of parents, kids and spouses. But more and more families are adding pets to their families. Maybe it’s because they’re adorable, funny creatures or maybe it’s because more of us are learning the health benefits associated with having a “fur baby” in the house. After all, it’s been shown in study after study that pets have the ability to vastly improve quality of life. They can help children develop, they can help prevent allergies and improve immunity, and they even help to improve mood. So it’s little wonder that a recent survey shows that 68% of U.S. households own at least one pet. This equals a staggering to 82.5 million homes.
As a family practice, we understand the importance of a loving, supportive family but we also realize that we’d be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge all the wonderful ways our furry friends add to the happiness and health of our homes. So as we start heading into the holiday season, we’ll be celebrating all things family – including our furry friends.
When word got out around the office that we were going to run a Cutest Pet Photo Contest in November, it got us all talking about the impact pets have on our families. One staff member in particular surprised us with this touching testimonial about how she dealt with the devastating news that she would not be able to have children…
“I was 38 and on a business trip 1,000 miles from home when I received a call from my OB/GYN. I held my breath as I recognized the number on my caller ID. This was the call that would determine whether or not I could have children. After a few years of trying and months of receiving hormone shots to ready my body for a baby, this was it. The time had come. Sitting in the back of a rented car with three of my co-workers, I discreetly answered my phone as they went about chatting. In less than a minute I was told my FSH level was over 100 and that it would be impossible for me to have children of my own.
I didn’t say a word to anyone about it on that trip. In fact, I barely told any of my friends when I got back home. And when I did, I tried to keep it very matter of fact for fear of being a downer. After all, my circle of friends were all at ages where they were either having babies or in the throes of celebrating motherhood.
Thankfully, my husband was a rock during this time but even so, I felt there was only so much he could understand because not only is he a guy, but he’s a very left brained, logical-thinking kind of guy so while he was very understanding and supportive, I felt there was only so much he could relate to.
I did, however, find one “person” I could talk to – and cry with – for as long as I needed. I received no judgment, I never felt guilty for burdening him with my troubles and I could go on and on and he would patiently listen to me. He’s the one I credit with saving me during that very dark time. This “person” was my dog Jack.
Because I didn’t know anyone who had experienced what I was going through, I truly felt that Jack was the only one I could talk to. And talk I did. We’d lay for hours on the bed, with my head on his big furry body, clutching him for dear life as my tears fell on him. He became my savior. I could just be me while I let out all the anger, sorrow and guilt for not being able to give my husband a baby and for the loss of our dreams. He was by my side morning and night. To this day, I truly believe he understood how much I needed him at that time. He was extra loving and attentive and there was a connection with him that I’ve hardly felt with any other person, much less an animal.
So when people ask me how I dealt with that type of news at such a young age, I credit my husband for being a such a rock but I also credit Jack for truly saving me because I honestly don’t think I would’ve come out the other end as well as I did without him. His unconditional love was exactly what I needed at that time and it’s something I don’t think anyone else could have offered. So when we think of pets, it’s easy to be flippant about them but their very special kind of love and support can’t be discounted. And to me, that sounds like the very best kind of family member!”
To see more ways of how pets can be beneficial to your family, click here.
*According to the 2013-2014 APPA National Pet Owners Survey