Renaissance Ranch

How Can My Pet Help My Recovery?

May 14, 2022

Where do you stand on the dogs versus cats question? On the one hand, you have Balto, who helped bring medicine to a town. But then there’s Scarlett, who risked death by saving her kittens from a burning building. No matter which side you fall on, it’s hard to argue against the idea that a pet can help you feel better.

Pets as Companions

If you have a dog or a cat, you know the feeling of coming home at the end of the day and having them greet you. It is difficult not to respond to their joy of seeing you. A pet’s ability to soothe your emotions benefits your mental health.

Your favorite furry friend loves you unconditionally. Your pet doesn’t judge you. All they want is your love and attention – and in the greater scheme of life, is that so much to ask? They will listen to you, sit quietly next to you, or give the occasional but much-needed lick. How often do you find yourself smiling, giving belly or chin rubs? Their antics are a release from whatever stress or tension you are experiencing. When you let a pet become a part of your life, you allow something bigger than yourself to become important.

Think about how you schedule activities around their needs. Do you stop what you’re doing to watch them play, possibly, at times, joining in? That’s a part of caring for another being. You see, a pet is a reminder that you matter. Read that sentence again. You matter. You’re lovable. You can care for and be responsible for another creature. 

Pets and Recovery

Some say having a dog increases your life span. If this is true, the question is, why do dogs and cats affect our longevity? More research on this topic uses dogs as study participants, so the answers are typically dog-focused. According to John Hopkins Medicine’s article “The Friend Who Keeps You Young,” time spent with a dog can increase dopamine levels and decrease your stress levels. 

When you have a dog, you’re also more likely to set a daily schedule based on its physical needs. While you may not want to get out of bed in the morning, a dog could be a reason for you to get going. You will likely incorporate your dog’s needs into your life. That walk or run you took served several purposes: you and your dog exercised, spent time outside, and you freed your mind of stress or tension. Exercise combined with letting go of negative influences can decrease depression or anxiety. 

Another benefit of being a pet parent is the time you spend playing with them. Dogs (and cats) can help you let your guard down. You’re likely to be silly, laugh, and have fun. Unfortunately, adults don’t spend enough time playing. Maybe you sought alcohol or drugs to feel free and full of joy. However, substances can’t give you the feeling of authentic happiness.

Spending Time With a Pet

Maybe you don’t have a pet or aren’t sure you have the time to care for a pet properly. That’s okay. If you’re thinking about owning a pet, here are a few thoughts to consider.

Adopting a Pet

While some believe adopting a dog or cat is better than buying from a breeder, you need to consider your needs. There are rescue dogs that bring their own unique needs with them. Sometimes rescue dogs come from abusive or neglectful homes. Talk with the shelter staff about the pets you’re interested in and see what their evaluations discovered.

Another option is adopting a senior dog or cat. Sometimes the love of a senior pet is what you need during your recovery. 

Two more categories of adoption include trained service or emotional support animals. Trained service or emotional support animals can help you cope with your mental health disorders because of their training in issues like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 

Buying From a Breeder

Deciding to bring home a puppy from a breeder is a personal choice. Maybe the idea of taking care of a puppy, training it, and meeting its needs as it grows is right for you. However, before you pick a breed, do your homework. While you may like the look of a certain type of puppy, it’s vital to remember that every breed has a different activity or attention level of care. For example, husky puppies are adorable, but they require daily exercise, lots of attention, patience, and training. They’re not a breed you can leave alone for hours or let loose in a backyard without a fence. 

Volunteer With Animals

You don’t have to bring a pet into your home. You can always volunteer at a rescue shelter. If there is a Guide Dogs center near you, you can also help them. A fun part of volunteering is playing with the dogs or cats. You can help them learn to socialize and reap the benefits of pets on your mental health.

Pets are an excellent way to improve your mental health in recovery. A pet’s unconditional love can boost your self-esteem. Additionally, taking care of a pet gives you purpose and sets a daily routine. A pet gives you the chance to let go of your inhibitions and play but can also help you find your center. The conversations you have with your pet are valuable. You can open up without fear of being judged. You let go of hurt, shame, or guilt as you speak. Take those words and your feelings and share them with your alumni group. Renaissance Ranch Treatment Centers encourages you to open up your body, mind, and soul so you may embrace recovery. Our alumni group, the Band of Brothers, can provide you with the care you need to maintain your sobriety. To learn more about our approach, call (801) 308-8898.