SOFT PAWS: What you get from pets

WITH MOST OF US still under “stay at home” directives, I want to concentrate on the advantages of companion animal ownership, we’d like to share these thoughts referenced from

The benefits we experience when pets (animals) are beside us:

Pet therapy works by providing proximity to animals to those who can benefit by it. What are the benefits we accrue when animals are brought near us? They’re almost too good to be true!

• We develop more empathy

Studies report that children who live in homes in which a pet is considered a member of the family are more empathetic than children in homes without pets.

This could be due to a variety of reasons: Children see animals as peers. They can identify better with animals than human beings. Animal psychology is very simple. With animals, what you see is what you get. Humans are not as direct. We need to develop talent to read and interpret “body language.” Children can read an animal’s body language. As children get older, their ability to empathize with animals will carry over into their experiences with people.

• We develop an outward focus

Individuals who have mental illness or low self-esteem focus on themselves. Animals can help them focus on their environment. Rather than thinking and talking about themselves and their problems, they watch and talk to and about the animals.

• Nurturing

Nurturing skills are learned. Most of learn this from our parents. Those who do not learn these skills from their parents can learn by taking care of their pets. By being taught to take care of an animal, the children can develop these skills. Psychologically, when a person nurtures, his/her need to be nurtured is being fulfilled.

• Rapport

Animals can open a channel of emotionally safe, non-threatening communication between client and therapist. In therapy settings, animals help present an air of emotional safety. If a therapist has an animal in his/her office, s/he “can’t be all bad.” The animal’s presence may open a path through the person’s initial resistance. Children are especially likely to project their feelings and experiences onto an animal.

• Acceptance

Animals have a way of accepting without qualification. They don’t care how a person looks or what they say. (Have you ever heard of your dog deciding to go to your neighbors because he or she feels it is better out there?) An animal’s acceptance is nonjudgmental, forgiving, and uncomplicated by the psychological games people often play. They accept you the way you are.

• Entertainment

The presence of an animal provides a much needed entertainment to those watching it. Even people who don’t like animals often enjoy watching their antics and reactions. Especially in long-term care facilities, it seems everyone is entertained by animal visits in some way.

• Socialization

Studies have shown that when dogs and cats come to visit a care facility, there is more laughter and interaction among residents than during any other “therapy” or entertainment time. In an inpatient setting, the presence of animals encourages socialization. Staff members have reported that it is easier to talk to residents during and after animal visits. Family members often come during the animal visits and some have reported that it is an especially comfortable and pleasant time to come. The staff also benefits from the therapeutic visit.

• Mental stimulation

Mental stimulation occurs because of increased communication with other people, recalled memories, and the entertainment provided by the animals. In situations that are depressing or institutional, the presence of the animals serves to brighten the atmosphere, increasing amusement, laughter, and play. These positive distractions may help to decrease people’s feelings of isolation or alienation.

• Physical contact, touch

It is well established that touch is very important for the nourishment of our mind and spirit. Infants who are not touched do not develop healthy relationships with other people and often fail to thrive and grow physically. For some people, touch from another person is not acceptable, but the warm, furry touch of a dog or cat is. In hospitals, where most touch is painful or invasive, the touch of an animal is safe, non-threatening and pleasant. There are a number of programs for people who have been physically or sexually abused in which staff and volunteers are not allowed to touch the clients. In cases like these, having an animal to hold, hug and touch can make a world of difference to people who would otherwise have no positive, appropriate physical contact.

• Physiological benefits

Many people are able to relax when animals are present. Tests have shown that the decrease in heart rate and blood pressure can be dramatic. Even watching fish swim in an aquarium can be very calming.

• Additional benefits

CGHS Adoption Counselor Kay Saracione knows all about puppy love… she’s certainly getting plenty of it from Ella, one of our great dogs up for adoption at the shelter! Ella loves her walks and human companion time. She just saw so many of her friends go to new homes as adoptions during the lockdown have been at an all time high, that she’s confided in us that she feels it’s now her turn. We tend to agree. Photo contributed

Some people feel spiritual fulfillment or a sense of oneness with life and nature when they are with their pets. This is hard to define or explain. Some well-known authors have described their relationships with animals and nature as part of their sustaining life energy and/or part of their communion and relationship with God.

Knowing all of this, how can we not run–not walk–to our Columbia-Greene Animal Shelter and scoop up a living benefit to our mental and physical health and well-being? They’re waiting for you!

Feel free to call us at 518 828-6044, visit or stop down and see us at 111 Humane Society Road, off Route 66 (about a mile south of the intersection with Route 9H). Our hours are every day, from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Food Bank is open to the public in need of pet food or for those wishing to donate food anytime during business hours. All of our cats and kittens are “Furrever Free” with all expenses paid. Spay/neuter clinics for cats are $76 male or female, including a rabies vaccination and a 5-in-1 feline distemper combination vaccination. Nail clipping services are available every Saturday from 10 to 11 a.m. at the shelter, no appointment necessary, for a donation of $5 for cats and $10 for dogs.

To contact Charlene Marchand, chairperson of the Columbia-Greene Humane Society/SPCA Board of Directors, email

Comments are closed.