I understand that not everyone is madly in love with dogs, or cats, or children, or ice cream. To each, his own. But if non-animal people only knew the secrets we animal lovers know, they’d be lining up to adopt a furry friend.

According to the National Institutes of Health, owning a pet can improve your cardiovascular health. They report on a study that showed more dog owners survived a year or more after their heart attacks than non-dog owners, regardless of the severity of the attack. A study of married couples found those with pets had consistently lower blood pressure and heart rates and recovered more quickly from stress than the couples without pets.

People who walk their dogs are physically fitter and less obese than those who don’t, older people who walk their dogs walk longer and further than non-dog walkers, and those older people who walk their dogs have more mobility inside their homes, too. Dog walkers also have greater social interaction, which can slow mental and physical decline as we age.

The NIH also reported on studies which show children with autism react positively to animals as do patients in hospitals and nursing homes. The act of talking to and petting a dog or cat can provide comfort and may actually help in controlling pain.

A barking dog is a great deterrent to burglars; cats are great for controlling rodents in and around your home; and with training, dogs can be taught to assist their owners with a variety of tasks.

So are you sold on the benefits of pets? If not, let me tell you some things that the studies don’t.

When I’m sad, my dog doesn’t tell me to cheer up. Instead, he lies down next to me and shares my grief. My cats don’t care if I’m skinny or fat, if I’ve dyed my roots or not or if I’m wearing makeup. They love me just the way I am. My foster kittens never fail to make me smile; and I have never felt as loved as I did with 13 furry babies all wanting my time and attention. And when they escaped from the cat house, where did the adventurers go? They came through the dog door into the house, looking for me.

My animals bring me unconditional affection, laughs, love, and joy. To all you animal lovers out there, you know exactly what I mean. And for those of you who just don’t get it, I can only hope you like kids and ice cream.

— Pets and the People Who Love Them is brought to you by your friends at the Athens Limestone Animal Shelter. To adopt your best friend (cat or dog), please visit 1701 U.S. 72 (behind Limestone Veterinary Clinic), visit our Facebook page or call 256-771-7889.

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