Before August goes out with summer fun and heat, I want to remind the readers that August is National Dog Month. Right here in the middle of what we call “The Dog Days of Summer,” I wanted to share the benefits of having a sweet pet. My precious little dog Cookie blesses me day every day. She wakes me up early to take her for a morning walk. Cookie has truly helped me to make friends with others because she pulls me her way to greet folks. It is hard to not pet my little friend because she is so very loving. She loves to meet other dogs. Too, when I laugh and express happiness, she runs around me with joy.  When I cry and express sorrow, she comes near me and kisses my tears away. When I am sick, she is the very best little nurse I could ever have because she cuddles right up to me to be sure that I am doing well. I want to thank Dr. Buddy Bruce’s Animal Health Clinic for making us both a part of their staff family. The receptionists keep her with them when I go in to teach young children. They just open the door to their reception area and Cookie walks right on in. Cookie has provided many physical, mental and emotional benefits for me. 

We all like to pet a dog, stroke a cat or take time with a cute little puppy or kitten. From cute, furry little animals, to looking at an aquarium with fish gracefully swimming around, pets are just fun.  

I wanted to review and share some of the benefits pets have for the young and elderly. 

1. Taking care of pets boosts energy and vitality. I love to watch my senior friends and families engage in playfulness, exercise and happiness with their pets. This increases energy especially for the elderly person, even if they are sitting down or in a wheelchair.  The simple acts of pet petting, cleaning, brushing and feeding provide mild activity which leads to more energy and a better mood. If a senior adult is mobile, walking a dog provides immeasurable benefits of cardiovascular exercise.  

2. Having a pet decreases anxiety and provides sensory and stress relief. Touch and movement are natural ways to manage stress. In early childhood education, we teachers learn that young children need movement, hugs and pats on the back for encouragement in order to feel secure and stay calm. The same is true as we age. Stroking a dog, cat or other pets helps us to feel calmer and less stressed. Being less stressed lowers blood pressure. 

3. Taking care of a pet adds schedule, routine and structure to a day. Pets do require regular feedings. Health requirements of pets need to be met too. Dogs require a consistent schedule of exercise. Having a consistent routine of exercise not only keeps your dog calm and balanced, but keeps us calm, balanced and less anxious. This is important for us as we age. 

4. Pets help us interact with other people. Walking and carrying a pet is a natural conversation starter. As I know personally, pets help you to make friends. I love it when senior living villages bring petting zoos for special events. 

5. Pets provide companionship and company. Man was not meant or made to live alone. Companionship prevents sickness, while isolation can cause loneliness, leading to depression in many cases. Taking care of a living animal, whether it be dogs, cats, fish, etc., encourages one to emotionally feel needed and wanted. It gives us a purpose. We senior adults, as well as children, can benefit so much from taking care of a pet. 

6. Having a pet can increase confidence and self-esteem. The elderly years can be a lonely time of life. The unconditional love of a dog, cat, parrot and other pets can stimulate us mentally and renew an interest in living life to the fullest in our elderly years. 

Happy Labor Day to all.  Labor Day is this coming Monday, Sept. 4. I know the Greatest Generation and Baby Boomers remember that we did not start school until after Labor Day when we were growing up. This day celebrates what community helpers do as we approach this day off for many of us. We deeply appreciate all our workers who make our community function. September is also “Better Breakfast Month”. As parents and teachers, we recognize that a good breakfast provides energy for our children’s bodies to not only perform better, but behave better. It is a great way to start off the school day.  

 Beth Pinyerd has taught young children in the early childhood classroom for many years. She holds a master’s degree in Early Childhood Education from Auburn University. The column is provided to enrich the education of our children, youth and families in our community.