The Paws that Refreshes

The Paws that Refreshes by Laurie Buchanan

The Paws that Refreshes by Laurie Buchanan

Even if we don’t drink it, we all remember Coca-Cola’s slogan: “The Pause that Refreshes.”

Time and time again scientific studies have shown that companion animals have a positive affect on human health:

Physically challenged individuals indicate that their service dogs provide companionship and support, reduce stress, increase their “freedom to be capable,” and provide a sense of purpose.

Quality of life improves in families of epileptic individuals when a dog that responds to seizures is present in the home.

Animal-assisted therapy effectively reduces the loneliness of residents in long-term care facilities.

One general study found that cat owners scored better on psychological health ratings than did non-owners. Other studies have been more specific, focusing on groups facing stressful life events such as bereavement, illness, and homelessness. Findings from these studies often indicate that pets—dogs, cats, and birds—play a significant supportive role, reducing depression and loneliness and providing companionship and a need for responsibility.

Even passive interaction with animals can provide benefit. For example, people who watch fish in an aquarium experience decreased pulse rate, increased skin temperature, and decreased muscle tension. Amazingly, the nutritional intake and weight of Alzheimer’s Disease patients increased significantly when fish aquariums were introduced into their dining areas.

Companion animals—truly the paws that refreshes.

Do you have a companion animal? If not now, perhaps one in the past?

Listen with your heart,

Laurie Buchanan

Whatever you are not changing, you are choosing.”
               — Laurie Buchanan and our Facebook page

© 2011 Laurie Buchanan – All Rights Reserved

41 thoughts on “The Paws that Refreshes

  1. Such interesting findings Laurie. I had a horse from birth to 29 years old. She didn’t leave home with me and stayed with my family but was a valued member of the family. Personality plus! With moving as often as I did and having children who had allergies I didn’t have many pets as an adult.

    We think about it once in awhile now but have settled on watching the neighbour’s sheep, the deer, raccoon’s and birds. Mostly I have thought about getting chickens lately.

    • Terrill – I love horses! One of my friends has several and every once in a while I help muck out stalls in exchange for riding. There’s something about that experience that’s indescribably contentful. I realize that’s not a real word — but it conveys the feeling: full of contentment.

      Being surrounded with the wildlife in your area has got to be amazing. If you decide to raise chickens, you’ve got to get in touch with our friend Sandi. She has “The Chicken Ladies” and knows all the ins and outs of it.

  2. No companion animals right now, Laurie, but we’ve had a houseful of cats, a dog or two, a guinea pig, a slew of hamsters, and goodness knows what else over the years. (Not minding being paw-less these days. There are enough paws outside our windows! A porcupine climbed the tree in the garden yesterday.)

    • Kathy – And if I’m not mistaken, you have bear paws passing through, leaving claw marks on trees, on a regular basis. Yep — you’ve got plenty of paws!

  3. Like Kathy, no animal companions right now. This is the first time in 35 years we haven’t shared our home and our lives with a cat friend. It’s been a big adjustment. But we do have two? little spotted skunks that we see, and sometimes smell, just before dawn. We think they’re coming up the stairs to check out our front door, plants etc. Something seems to interest them. They’re sweet little fellows. If only they might consider a different perfume…….

    • Colleen – Oh my gosh, I just looked up “little spotted skunks” on Google and and found two kinds: brown and black, and both equally adorable! In the world of animal totems, this is what I discovdered:

      Just think what a remarkable defense mechanism: Nonviolent, passive, effective. The skunk sends a message to would-be predators: “Nothing personal, just back off and nobody gets hurt.”

      This unique method of self-protection and the way a skunk handles its predators is symbolic of:
      Good judgement

      We would all do well to take this animal symbolism from the skunk: Do no harm. Indeed, as a totem animal, the skunk asks us to defend ourselves effectively, without causing further conflict.

      Interestingly, the skunk would prefer to be even less assertive. You see, it takes over a week to reproduce its stinky juices after using them (their glands are only good for about 4 sprays). Ergo, the skunk is 100% sure it must spray before doing so as this defense tool is a commodity in the wild – not to be wasted on false alarms.

      In recognizing this, we see the skunk is the ultimate pacifist, and by adopting its peace-loving ways we may obtain the carefree lifestyle this creature enjoys.

      Carefree indeed, the skunk has very few predators because most of the animal kingdom recognize its tell-tale markings and know from wildlife scuttlebutt the skunk is not to be fooled with. As such, the skunk goes about its business with aplomb, and has an innocent quality that few wild creatures have the luxury of exhibiting.

  4. I’m owned by three aging-gracefully cats.
    The first two arrived as I was acclimatzing to island life. I was also grieving the death of my mother. Joey and Sam seemed to sense when I need them the most. They won’t leave my side and caught each tear. Since then my health has been an issue. Each and every time, without fail, all three stuck by my side–often taking turns.
    I could never repay the kindness they’ve showered on me.

  5. I had a hamster when I was a child but my mum would not allow it in the house and it froze to death in the garage – I did not connect well with the hamster, but it made me so sad when it was gone – I learned the sadness part of attachment loss.

    I helped my children take care of their cats and dogs along the way, but they did the training and basic care – so the dogs especially always felt like their pets and I was not so attached.

    Then I just decided last year that I really wanted someone as a walking partner. For 6 months I called and called trying to find someone who would want to go at least 1 time per week. It never seemed to work out. In the Fall – well I had a dream I was walking again with a dog and about Thanksgiving time a phone call came about a puppy and ZIP came into my life.

    He is crying at the door right now, and tomorrow goes for his first haircut! How lucky am I? He loves to walk, when i go to far he likes a short carry…and he chews his bone beside my desk or naps when i am writing….We have a good day together and he is so happy – he cheers my soles and souls!
    what a nice post – thank you for sharing this idea

  6. I had my Magic-cat for 15 wonderful years, Laurie. I still miss her tremendously. She taught me unconditional love. She loved me whether I was happy or grumpy. Her companion, The Princess, died the year before. She was a wonderful friend, too. I am not getting another animal right now. I am waiting for my life to sort itself out a little bit, especially in terms of residences (I am still temporarily residing at Jonathan’s house).

  7. Laurie,
    I grew up in a house where there were always pets, you name it, we had it, fish, turtles, hamsters, we even bred mice for awhile and sold them to the local pet shops. I have continued the tradition with my family, we have a marine aquarium, two fresh water aquariums, four handsome bettas who live lined up on our kitchen counter in a sort of “Betta Bar”, a parakeet named Rafael and our wonderful dog Chase. I cannot imagine not having pets around the house, they just add something I can’t really describe. They are a wonderful model for unconditional love.

    • Linda – I love the description of your Betta Bar — how cool is that?! Like you, I can’t imagine not having companion animals around either (although vacuuming would be less frequent). Have a great weekend!

  8. Yes, I have had pets most of my life…cats and/or dogs. My last one was Bear, a Llasa. He had a bad heart and ended with congestive heart failure. He passed almost 3 years ago and yes I miss him. Financially I have not been able to afford having another pet just yet.
    Some years ago when I was sick and found it hard to get up and around, because I had him I had to get up at least a few times a day to feed and take him for walks. He was a blessing in my life, and so sweet.

  9. No pets here for several years now – allergies. But I LOVE cats and have had at least one for most of my life! My son and daughter-in-law are away on vacation so we are enjoying feeding their cat and fish while they are gone. Makes me wish for another cat!!

    My father, who suffers from dementia, spends many happy hours watching the birds at the bird feeders in the yard outside his window.

    Love the info on skunks! When one sprays here overnight I almost welcome the way the smell clears my sinuses!

    • Barbara – You’re the only other person I know who doesn’t mind eau de skunk 🙂 We had two Tuxedo cats for 18 years — Patrick and Dougan. When Patrick died, Dougan followed two weeks later of a broken heart. Your setup of “babysitting” your son and daughter-in-laws critters is a nice way to stay in touch with companion animals.

      I can well imagine that while you’re father is watching birds outside his window, a place deep in his mind is active. He may not be able to convey that activity, but I believe it’s true for people with dementia or alzheimer’s. I’m glad he has that pasttime available to him.

      • Poor Dougan! It sounds like Patrick & Dougan had a very good life together. Cats do well in pairs, don’t they?

        That’s a nice thought I’ll keep in mind about Dad’s mind. It visibly frustrates him that he has no short term memory, no sense of time of day or year, although sometimes a memory from his childhood will come bubbling up and in that way I’ve learned a lot more about that part of his life as I link the little stray thoughts together and find a story there…

      • Barbara – By chance do you have photographs of your father’s childhood? It might be delightful for him if (and you) if you sat with him and simply turned the pages of the photo album very slowly. It’s possible that memories may bubble to the surface for him that way as well.

      • Yes, we do that from time to time. 🙂 Another thing he finds enjoyable is slowly looking at the pictures in those large coffee table books one can find in the bargain section of Borders, especially the science and nature ones. We also decorated his bedroom with posters of lions, tigers, leopards, mountain lions, etc., all the big cats he loves so much. He talks about them every day as if he’s just seen them for the first time, asking where they came from and commenting about how majestic and beautiful they are.

  10. Wonderfully purrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrfect post Laurie. Couldn’t be more true either. I’ve had my darling Leo for almost 15 years. He’s traveled with me across the country, kept vigil over my heart as I burried two parents and forgives me allllllllllllllll my indescritions. His purs are the last sounds I hear at night and the first ones I awaken to in the morning. He is THE love of my life. Thank you so much for including the 4 legged ones. . . .they are what keeps us together in the heart.

    • Alison – Your Leo sounds like an amazing companion! When our boys (Patrick and Dougan — Tuxedo Cats) were live (they both lived to be 18), they would get up in bed with us and “tread” on our tummies while purring to beat the band!

  11. Ah Laurie, we have two labrador retrievers (the black is pure, the white is a mixed hound, both female–names Joanie and Morgan) a male pug named Goober, that sadly spends more time than he should in a cage, as he’s an ‘indescriminate urinator’, but we do what we can to have him spend a lot of time in the yard, two cats named Tonka and Zachary (saved from sure liquidation near the end of their planned time at an animal shelter–we were tempted to rescue even more) and two very vociferous parrots named Blue and Roy (one aged 6, the other 20, and both projected for 70 year life spans!) My 80 year old father, who was never much for animals (neither was my mother for that matter) wonders why we need this many animals, when we have five kids, and I can’t deny he has a point, especially with the home maintenance a constant challenge.

    But heck, Lucille and I love animals, and once they are in this house, we’d never surrender them!

    What a wonderful post!

    • SamOhhhhhhh, your household sounds as lively and fun as Dr. Doolittle’s! Do you ever call anyone (human or otherwise) by the wrong name? Two parrots both expected to live 70 years and their only 6 and 20 now. Do Blue and Roy share a cage, or are their individual cages next to each other? If they’re best buds, I imagine that they’ll have to go as a pair to one of your children at some point. Len just received a Bonsai Tree for Father’s Day and I expect that Eoghan will inherit it because they say that with proper maintenance, they can live for hundreds of years.

  12. Pingback: Stage Play “Unnatural Acts,” “Bringing Up Baby,” “La Dolce Vita,” Buster Keaton and “Mr. Popper’s Penguins” on Monday Morning Diary (June 20) « Wonders in the Dark

  13. This I know for sure, I would not be the person I am today had it not been for my wonderful pets throughout my life. Currently I have my 2 giant dogs that know exactly when to snuggle & pretend to be a lap dog, whenever life has thrown my a curve or slammed a door in my face, my dogs have somehow known precisely what I needed. I can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t have a dog, from childhood till now. Even in college I managed to meet my husband when he lived off campus and had a dog! Who then became our family dog, Zeke. When my son died Zeke was always there when I needed to cry. When we became pregnant again it was Zeke who wouldn’t leave my side. We had to move his food & water bowls next to me while I was on bedrest. That dog laid next to me for 35 weeks! There is probably no power I believe in more than the power of our own personal “guide” animals – for whatever we need guidance in.

  14. A childhood neighbour recalled watching me tell stories to a small circle of kittens and puppies. I’ve been blessed to have a companion animal all through my life. Spending my days with my dog Abby settles my mind and adds a smile to my day.

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