by Michael Goodman
and Peter Boyce
Research shows that any disease or condition that has a stress-related component to it can be alleviated by caring for pets, particularly cats or dogs.
As well as providing companionship and unconditional love, they can improve your mental and physical well-being by reducing your stress and blood pressure levels, encouraging you to focus on them rather than constantly focusing inwards on your own challenges and worries, and helping prevent loneliness and depression by providing company and raising the spirits of the lonely or housebound.
Considered by many to be “man’s best friend”, dogs are there to greet you when you come home, whether you have been out shopping or paying bills, socialising, or coming home from work at the end of the day. Some breeds require a lot of exercise, and for the physically able, that can encourage owners to stick to a regular fitness routine promoting better physical health.
Of course, you will not get the most from owning a dog if it is confined to a back yard and considered nothing more than a “guard dog”, albeit providing a useful service. In many other countries, the house-pet is more common than it is in Barbados, and it is sad that so many people are missing out on the mutual enjoyment and health benefits that owners can experience when they treat their dogs like a member of the family.
If you are not a dog owner already, then getting a dog is not a decision to be made lightly and one which should be discussed with other family members and perhaps even a vet or other animal expert, particularly if you are an older person and new to dog ownership.
It is very important, especially for older people, to do some research before bringing a dog into the home, and choose one whose personality, size, temperament, characteristics and requirements fit your needs, abilities and living situation.
Small dogs are generally better because they’re easier for seniors to handle. Toy breeds that have a quiet, sweet disposition and require minimal exercise are called “lap dogs” because they are most content sitting in their owners’ lap. These lap dogs are ideal companions for seniors, though several small-to-medium-sized breeds can also make suitable pets for seniors.
Of course, dogs have to be properly fed — scraps are not enough on their own. They need a balanced diet, just like you. They need to be bathed, wormed and treated for fleas and ticks on a regular basis and if you are physically unable to do these things, you may have to pay for the service if you do not have a family member willing to help. Vet bills can mount up, but if you care for your dog well, he or she is more likely to remain healthy.
Be careful where and from whom you get a dog. If you go to one of the animal shelters like the Ark, you can not only give a home to an abandoned or rescued animal, but you will also have the benefit of the advice and guidance you will get from the people who work there.
You can call the Ark on 435-4108. They have an excellent website with advice and guidance on responsible pet ownership at arkanimalwelfarebarbados.com.
You can also contact the Hope Sanctuary on 266-0986 or visit their website at thehopesanctuary.com.
Join Michael Goodman & Peter Boyce on Bajan Living every Monday, 2-3pm, on 100.7 QFM Barbados or online at qfm.bb. Find us on Facebook or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org