The many benefits of pets.

Something I’ve been thinking a lot about this week, off the back of my mental health post. Pets can be a really great addition to someone who is suffering with both mental and physical illnesses.

We got our (not so) little puppy back in July. I really wanted one anyway, I was unemployed so had time to train him up, and to be honest, I was really lonely when Keith was out at work, especially with him staying away quite frequently. I’d been trying my luck for a while, and after a spate of break ins round our estate, I managed to convince him a guard dog would be a really good idea. Yano for safety and stuff.

We looked at rescuing one, as ideally that’s what we both would have liked to do, but with me wanting to try and train him as a possible diabetic alert dog, plus having the cats, we decided we’d be best getting a puppy. On the Thursday, we set a budget, had a look around and on Sunday (I’ve never been known for my patience) we broke our budget and did the 8 hour round trip to Essex to bring home our Golden Retriever, Max.

If you follow me on Twitter, or basically any social media, you’ll know I’m always posting photos of him. I adore him. He quickly became a brilliant guard dog, barking whenever anyone comes to the house, never being aggressive, but just alert. It put my mind at rest massively. Someone actually did try to get in to the house while Keith was away a couple of weeks ago, and I think Max scared them off, because for a 5 month old, 17 kilo puppy, he sounds a lot bigger!

Mentally, he’s helped a lot. I absolutely adore our two cats, and they can be really affectionate, but they’re very independent and not often very interested in sitting cuddled up on the couch. Max is the total opposite, if anything, he’s too clingy, but I can’t help but love it.

Now I’m not suggesting for a second that you should get a pet just to make you feel better or to cheer you up. Puppies especially, are really hard work and there were some days when I thought I’d cry because he was peeing all over the carpets and biting anything and everything. With some stern words and lots of training, he’s now (touch wood) really well behaved. He’s going to be such a big dog, it was vital we got him trained early. But he’s really helped me. Not just for the big furry cuddles whenever I need them. It gave me a reason to get up, a reason to get out the house. I could take him out to the park, get some fresh air, just have a bit of purpose and focus. You can’t sit on the couch in a ball if you’ve got a puppy that needs fussing or taking out.

When it comes to being a diabetic alert dog, he has not picked it up at all. We had a glorious couple of months where Diego (the black cat) would notice if I was having a hypo. He’d scratch at me and bite me until I realised what was up, even if I was asleep. I mean, there was also the time when he picked up the packet of glucose tablets I was using to treat my hypo and ran off with them in his mouth, so I guess it all balances out. He soon lost interest, but it was brilliant while it lasted.

At the end of the day, alerting me to blood sugar changes wasn’t a big issue for me, it just would have been a nice bonus. All 3 pets are so docile and loving, and that’s the main thing. They’ve all helped so much in their own ways, and they’ve brightened my life after the past year more than I could explain. If you’ve got the time and the money, not to mention the patience, it really might be something worth considering.

(Pictures of aforementioned pets below, Max at 9 weeks and Max at 5.5 months, Diego and Paco below on the couch.)