If you are lucky enough to share your life and work with animals, you’ll appreciate this post. They bring their own culture and make business more interesting. The first time I saw a real need for this was in the Office of the President of Southwest Texas State University (now called Texas State University. His golden retrievers slept quietly under his desk as we talked. I feel sure they added great knowledge and peace to what can be chaotic at all times of the year especially at the end of the college year.
Here’s to more animals in the workplace. Your perfect networking partners sharing and caring.
(Re-printed with permission of the author)
People and animals have a long history of living together and bonding. The oldest evidence of this special relationship was discovered a few years ago in Israel—–a 12,000 year old human skeleton buried with its hand resting on the skeleton of a 6 month old wolf pup. “The bond between animals and humans is part of our evolution, and it’s very powerful,” says Dr. Ann Berger, a physician and researcher at the NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.
Today animal companions are more popular than ever. The pet population nationwide has been growing dramatically for nearly a half century, about two-thirds of households now own at least one pet. Pets can serve as important sources of social and emotional support for “everyday people,” not just individuals facing significant health challenges, according to research by the American Psychological Association.
Some of the largest and most well-designed studies in the field of human-animal interactions suggest that 4 legged friends can help to improve our cardiovascular health. One NIH funded study looked at 421 adults who had suffered heart attacks. A year later, the scientists found, dog owners were significantly more likely to still be alive than were those who did not own dogs, regardless of the severity of the heart attack. Another NIH investigation looked at more than 2,000 adults and found that dog owners who walked their dogs were more physically active and less likely to be obese than those who didn’t. Older dog walkers (71-82 years of age) also had greater mobility inside the home than non dog walkers.
Man’s best friend may help you make more human friends too. Pets may enhance social interactions with other people, providing an indirect effect on well being. Social contact is beneficial because it alleviates feelings of loneliness and social isolation. Pets act as social catalysts, leading to greater social contact between people. This is particularly important for those at risk of social isolation, such as the elderly or people with physical disabilities. People who have more social relationships tend to live longer and are less likely to show mental and physical declines as they grow older. Several studies have shown that walking with a dog leads to more conversations and helps you stay socially connected.
Other research suggests that pet ownership may hold special benefits during childhood. “when children are asked who they talk to when they get upset, a lot of times their first answer is their pet,” says Dr. James Griffin an expert in child development and behavior. “This points to the importance of pets as a source of comfort and developing empathy.”
Several research teams are examining the potential benefits of bringing specially trained animals into clinical settings. Animal assisted therapy is offered in hospitals and nursing homes nationwide. Clinicians who watch patients interacting with animals say they can clearly see benefits, including improved mood and reduced anxiety.
“ I think we’re at the tip of the iceberg in terms of what we know about the human-animal bond and its potential health benefits,” says Dr. Sandra Barker, director of the Center for Human-Animal Interaction at Virginia Commonwealth University.
Betty Morgan R.N., FCN
Ref: BMJ; Pet Ownership and Human Health
NIH; News in Health
American Psychological Association; How Animals Affect Us