Pets Help Treat Chronic Pain

Karen Lee Richards Health Guide
  • We're all familiar with service dogs who assist people with various types of disabilities, and therapy dogs who provide affection and comfort to individuals in care facilities like hospitals and nursing or retirement homes.  But I contend that the average pet, be it canine, feline, fowl or reptile, has a therapeutic effect on those of us who love and care for them. 

    I thought it would be fun to share stories about how our pets enrich our lives.  I'll tell you a little bit about the “fur kids” I share my life with and hope you will comment below and tell me about the critters that make your life a little better.

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    I currently have 3 cats and one dog.  My little menangerie has grown gradually over the past 16 years. 

    was first on the scene.  (She's the one on the right in the photo.)  When I rescued her from the SPCA 16 years ago, she was two years old.  She is a perfect tuxedo cat – black with white paws, white nose and chin, small white bib, and even a “cumberbund” white stripe across her tummy.  When I got into bed the first night after I brought her home, I said, “Come on, Slippers.  It's time for bed.”  She came running, jumped onto the bed and curled up under my arm, where she stayed for the rest of the night.  Since then, she has been a one-woman cat.  When she thinks I've been working at the computer for too long, she sits on my keyboard as if to say, “It's time to pay attention to me now.” 

    Jake joined us about seven months later.  (He's the one on the left in the above photo.)  I hadn't intended to get a second cat, but when I had to go out of town for a week, Slippers stayed with a friend who had a cat.  When I brought her back home, she moped for two weeks – apparently because she missed the other cat.  So I went to the Humane Society and adopted Jake.  He was six months old and walked with a limp because he had a broken hip.  (I named him Jake, short for Jacob, after the Jacob in the Bible, who also walked with a limp.)  When I brought Jake home, he and Slippers were instant friends – which is extremely unusual for two cats who were not raised together.  Where Slippers always sits or lies in a very prim and proper position, Jake sprawls out in all sorts of strange and funny poses.  As you can see from the picture, the two are still inseparable.

    Annie (as in Little Orphan Annie) showed up on my front porch nine years ago.  She had apparently been abandoned and decided to adopt me.  When she hadn't left my porch after three days, I brought her into the sunroom and gave her some food and water.  When she was finished eating and I opened the door to let her go out, she looked at me like I was crazy.  She had found her home and had no intention of leaving – much to the chagrin of Slippers and Jake.  They have never really accepted Annie into the fold, but have developed a grudging tolerance for her.  Annie is a sweet, quite little kitty who mostly tries to stay out of the way of the other cats. 

  • Having been an avowed cat person all my life, I never expected to have a dog – that is until a little black and white ball of fluff in the form of a Shih Tzu came into my life.  My grandson's Shih Tzu had been hit by a car and he was heartbroken.  When I took him to get a new puppy, I fell hopelessly in love myself.  So we got two puppies who were half brother and sister.

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    Becca joined my little family almost eight years ago and I quickly learned why people love dogs so much.  She's become my little shadow and keeps me laughing with her antics.  She and Annie have become fast friends, romping and playing together.  And if Jake gives Annie a hard time, Becca immediately runs to her defense.

    I don't know whether my pets actually reduce my pain levels by any measurable degree, but I do know they make me feel better.  When I'm having a rough day, they curl up on the sofa with me which, if nothing else, gives me a tremendous feeling of peace and joy.  I can't imagine life without them.

    I hope you've enjoyed meeting my little fur family.  Now I'd love to hear about yours.  Please click on “Comments” below and tell me about your pets and whether or how they help you cope with your pain a little better.


Published On: September 22, 2010