The second week of November marks Human-Animal Relationship Awareness Week, and we wanted to take this time to acknowledge all the ways that owning a pet can benefit people (and vice versa!). From companionship to protection, animals have served man and womankind for millennia. Established by the Institute of Animals and Society in 2016, Human-Animal Relationship Awareness Week aims to create an “environment that benefits both humans and animals” by hosting seminars and activities that help promote better relationships between people and their pets.
One of the most common reasons people become pet owners is companionship. Animals offer a steady presence, demanding nothing more than a fulfillment of their basic needs in exchange for unconditional love. Despite their inability to communicate with words, they fill a vital role in our lives with their physicality alone - Sometimes, all we need is the company of another being, to draw on that quiet strength and solidarity. This companionship can greatly impact their owners' emotional and mental well-being, with studies indicating decreased levels of cortisol (a.k.a the stress hormone) and loneliness.
We are living in an age where information is easily accessible and difficult dialogues are more openly discussed. Mental health, in particular, is at the forefront of the global conversation, with more and more people opening up about their struggles than ever before in the history of our society. As of 2020, 1 in 5 adults in the United States suffered from mental illness to various degrees of severity. Increased access to therapy and resources has helped to mitigate the mental health crisis in our country, but pets play a large part in this fight as well.
Specially trained service animals and emotional support pets can help people suffering from physical, emotional, or behavioral disorders function more normally in the world. Whether they are trained to identify seizures before they begin, help their owners perform day-to-day tasks, or simply provide a comforting presence, animals can serve in a multitude of ways. According to Dr. Layla Esposito of the National Insitute of Health's Human-Animal Research Program, "There is not one answer about how a pet can help somebody with a specific condition. Is your goal to increase physical activity? Then you might benefit from owning a dog. If your goal is reducing stress, sometimes watching fish swim can result in a feeling of calmness. So, there's no one type that fits all." That's part of what is so great about pet ownership! There are so many different animals to suit every personality and every situation. Whether you are an apartment dweller or suffer from certain allergies, whether you have time or financial constraints, there is an animal out there to suit your particular lifestyle.
Now that we covered all the ways that pets can benefit our lives, we wanted to take a few moments to share a few ways in which we can take an active role in enriching the relationship we share with our pets.
A healthy pet is a happy pet, so make sure you are maintaining regular vet visits. Lots of problems are not easily identified when it comes to our furry/scaly/feathered companions, which makes it even more important for a professional to make sure they have the best quality of life possible.
Spend more quality time with your pet. It is easy to get distracted by our busy lives and put ourselves first, but it is important to schedule time with your pet whenever possible. Taking them for walks, playing games, or even just snuggling together on the couch can make a difference in your and your pet’s lives.
Stay social! Animals thrive on connection, not just with humans but with other animals as well. Depending on your pet, make time for them to engage with other animals in a safe environment. They can learn social skills, burn off energy and have a great time doing it. Plus, you can use this as an opportunity to connect with all those new friends you are making within the Offleash’d community. ;)
While our mission at Offleash’d is to help people form connections with each other, it is also important to emphasize the strong bonds people have with their pets. We believe that there is an animal to fit every personality and situation, and Human- Animal Relationship Awareness week is a great time to focus on finding those special relationships!
For more information on service animals and ESAs, check out some of these resources from PetMD.