Therapy Pets and of course Toby

Introducing Toby ! a MindDog which is a Psychiatric Support Dog who goes everywhere with me and is trained to be sensitive to my moods and needs. He puts his head on my lap when I am upset or anxious and places a paw on my hand and repeatedly pats me until I pay him attention diverting my attention from my anxiety. It works. It brings me back to the present. He is fitted with a GPS tracker and when I try and escape the house he won’t leave my side and my husband is able to find me using his telephone. He is trained to open doors so closing the door on him does not work !!!! He is trained to bark if there is a smell of blood so if I cut he barks alerting my husband that I have cut. He’s a treasure and has kept me safe so many times. MindDog is an Australian Organisation that helps you train the dog and visits you every six months to check that everything is going okay. He can come everywhere with me and is given the same rights as a Seeing Eye Dog so can come into restaurants etc so helps alleviate the social anxiety for me. He is a labrador cross and the picture attached to this article is one of him in his jacket. He’s devoted to the whole family and it’s reciprocated. We love him passionately.

However, there is a growing body of evidence around the benefit of companion dogs to those who just want to have a pet. We have also known pets are good for us but now we have the scientific evidence backing that anecdotal evidence.

A touching memorial penned by Taboo star Tom Hardy to his late dog Woody triggered an outpouring of tears from the internet this weekend. It’s clear, from Hardy’s heartbreaking post, that his pet, who passed away on June 5, had come to represent more than just a companion — Woody, it seems, had become a form of emotional support. Recent research supports the idea that Hardy and Woody shared more than just a friendly bond; a new study, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, suggests that Woody helped protect his owner’s mental and physical health.

“Woody was the bestest of journey companions we ever could dream of having. Our souls intertwined forever,” Hardy wrote in a raw and riveting blog post, which detailed the story of his intensely close friendship with his dog, a stray that he picked up while on the set of Lawless.

While there’s some evidence that owning a pet or using therapy animals can improve the mental well-being of people suffering from psychological distress, there hasn’t been much research on the costs and benefits of having a pet for healthy people until now. In the new study, published on June 11, the researchers showed that pet owners are emotionally, socially, and physically better off than those who don’t own pets.

“Specifically, pet owners had greater self-esteem, were more physically fit, tended to be less lonely, were more conscientious, were more extraverted, tended to be less fearful and tended to be less preoccupied than non-owners,” said lead researcher Allen R. McConnell, Ph.D., of Miami University in Ohio, in a statement. The research, the authors noted in their paper, applied to “everyday people” — not just those dealing with health issues.

“Our souls intertwined forever.”

It probably won’t come as a surprise that there are psychological benefits to owning a pet, especially for people who know what it’s like to experience a special bond with their dog or cat. But most of the research up to this point has only shown a correlation between pet ownership and improved well-being — not causation. The current study, the researchers note, shows a more definitive relationship between the two.

In three experiments involving groups of 50 to 217 participants, the researchers surveyed pet owners and people without animals about the details of their personal lives, their social needs, and their experience of social rejection. The results of the first study showed that pet owners are “happier, healthier and better adjusted” than non-owners; in the second, dog ownership increased feelings of “belonging, self-esteem, and meaningful existence.” The third showed that writing about a beloved pet was equally as therapeutic as writing about a close friend when the objective was to stave off feelings of social rejection.

Taken together, the research supports the idea that dogs provide an important form of social support for their owners. It’s the latest addition to a body of knowledge suggesting that pet owners are better off than their pet-free counterparts, which recently included research showing that dog owners have especially healthy microbiomes and a study demonstrating that kids’ attitudes toward reading are improved when they read to dogs.

Of course, pet owners like Hardy hardly need convincing that their pets play an important part in their well being. His blog post made it clear how much Woody contributed — socially and emotionally — to his life, and how painful it felt when it was taken away:

He was Far too young to leave us and We at home are devastated by his loss I am ultimately grateful for his loyal companionship and love and it is of some great comfort that he is no longer suffering. Above all I am completely gutted. the world for me was a better place with him in it and by my side. . . With all of me I love you. Always Thankyou for Your love beautiful boy.

I would love to hear from you so please leave a comment. All feedback is much appreciated. Thank you. Erin

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