More than Family We Are Mates!
I have had animals in my life, all my life.
The design Pawtism wasn’t specifically about ‘dogs and autism, it was about service dogs and companionship dogs – my own dog Doodlepip – Four Paws Power and The Power of Paw – it was about the gift that our pawed companions have and their ability to share it with us. It is about their K9 awareness into the state of our health, both physical and mental.
When l was living at home with my parents we had cats, never dogs as my Father hated them, and so we were never allowed them, although l walked other peoples’ dogs for some extra money. My Sister had a gerbil, rabbit and a guinea pig – not all together, well the rabbit and the guinea were, but not the gerbil.
The rabbit – Sidney, and the guinea – Chalky were great, but Sarah the gerbil was a nightmare, the most aggressive nastiest gerbil l have ever met in my entire life and l have met a few in my travels, but none like Sarah! My cat Jasmine loved the guinea and the rabbit but wanted to eat the gerbil and l could understand that sentiment, although l didn’t want to eat the gerbil! Back then, l always felt comfortable and at ease when in the company of my pets – not the gerbil, who insisted only on taking sizeable chunks out of all who ventured near her domain!
I sadly grew up in a war zone of a household, slamming doors, conflictive arguments, aggressive physical and mental bullying and a lot of stress, so l was thankful for the presence of Jasmine who awarded me great comfort and companionship. Sidney and Chalky were companions to each other and of course my Sister. Sarah was companion to no one and really wasn’t bothered!
Back then, our respective pets acted as our therapeutic counsellors, prior to them and we used to confide in our teddy bears and dolls, but pets, they are way better for stress.
Over the years l have had the privilege of both working with and having live with me an assortment of animals ranging from cats and dogs, to horses and ponies, guinea pigs and rabbits, gerbils and hamsters and mice and rats. But also l have been incredibly lucky to be able to work with and maintain large collections of exotic animals. So this has meant that l have worked with a very large range of mammals too large to mention here, but to name a few so you glean an idea:
Primates, lions, cheetahs, tigers, raccoons, coatimundis, kinkajous, porcupines, meerkats, prairie dogs, skunks and so many others.
For twenty years of my life l owned a business which concentrated on working with a very healthy array of species, l worked alongside specialist keepers and zoos, game parks and private individuals.
These days, l only have a single dog in my life, she turned 14 on November 30th. Together we are the last pack members of what was once a large pack of dogs. I have had dogs in my life directly now for 25 years, and they are the best companion’s man can have.
I love all animals, and have a special fondness for as said dogs, but also cats and oddly enough porcupines, meerkats and prairie dogs in that order because of their unique characters and personality but also, because of their remarkable ability for calming you down.
It’s hard to think without any direct experience that a porcupine can calm you maybe, but l will have to assure you that they can. I have experience with brush tail porcupines, African crested porcupines and North American porcupines and can safely say that these three species offer the most comfort to those with anxiety.
The ‘Yip, Yip Yippee Ki Yay’ of the prairie dog is a treasure to hear, but sitting amongst a gang in their den, is truly an experience to be had, and again if you have depression – it drifts away! Meerkats and long before ‘Compare the Meerkat’ came along and popularised this awesome species, they were already marketing their ability of social friendliness to those who were willing to accept with open arms. Porcupines have soft undersides, and whilst their clambering to get to you can be a little testy, once they are secure, listening to their soft purring is very soothing.
But of course not everyone can experience these opportunities in the real world first hand, and as l said, l am extraordinarily lucky and privileged to have these memories.
But the point being made is that there is a lot of proven fact now, that having animals in your life can and does reduce your stress, anxiety and depression levels down exponentially. In simplicity itself your pets can improve your mental health!
This isn’t restricted to just cats and dogs, but l have known a vast array of species to be able to award companionship to those who need it ranging from the two aforementioned species and many already listed, but reptiles and birds such as parrots can award the companion much comfort. However for convenience l have made these points relevant to Dogs/Cats.
My own dog knows instinctively when l am not myself, and in fact all of my dogs over the years have been the same. They have this gift where upon they can make even the dowdiest of frowns turn upside down, they motivate us, encourage us, act as socialites and induce conversation, they are not just there for our wellness, but they are ever mindful of our therapy!
Need convincing further?
1] Having animals especially the likes of dogs, but equally cats… Encourages you to venture outside the house – where upon you can engage in the old game of breathing ‘fresh air” – and sunshine, both of these are free to use. Being outside motivates your brain to interact with nature and physically it can aid and assist you with regards exercise.
Being outside in the fresh air and soaking up the sun, can and scientifically is proven to aid your physical and mental being.
Walking, exercising, play times encourages your body, mind and soul to regenerate healthy growth and recovery.
2] Have you ever noticed that when you are grooming or petting your buddy, that as much as it aids them that you yourself are also feeling comforted? The truth is, that is exactly what you are feeling, it is a mutual relationship between the two of you – it serves both of you as a stress releaser.
They can provide total comfort, affection; they are great for combatting loneliness with those who feel so desperately alone. They are able to create distractions to keep your mind active and stimulated and continue thinking positively in comparison to negatively.
3] Their inner senses are able to detect more about us than we can, they can zone into who we are and where we are at more efficiently than many of the medical professions can – because our pets intrinsically know us inside and out. They know instantly and instinctively when we are not right, sometimes long before we do.
It stands to reason of course – animals have the incredible talent to be able to detect environments through their noses, they can hear thunderstorms long before the first crack sounds off over head, so it shouldn’t be surprising to readers now, that your pet is aware of who you are and how you are mentally and physically.
They know how to protect us and to their abilities they do that, they know, they just know.
4] Our pets offer us an unconditional love, that cannot always be matched by fellow humans – they don’t judge us. Dogs are especially renowned for this behaviour – they don’t care if we are wealthy or poor, rich and famous, straight laced or witty, wise or as dumb as a box of rocks, they care for us irrespective – they love us, for us. They listen to us during our times of woe, sadness, angry rants, boring diatribes, jubilations, tribulations and epiphanies – they are our closest and most loyal companion and confidants – they take our secrets to their graves. They are there for us many a time when supposed friends and family and even loved ones are not.
They love us whatever the time of day, or week, or whatever the emotion on display, they love us unconditionally.
5] They award us a sense of purpose, of belonging, or meaning, of direction … they can serve as our social ambassadors when we so desperately need that skill, they can open doors as well as unexpected conversations and topics. Our pets can serve as the ultimate ice breaker!
They remind us, that WE are not alone, and that WE are not the only ones on the planet – that there are others out there like us.
They encourage taking care of them equally as much as we take care of ourselves and they remind us that we do have reason to want to go on. We have a responsibility to their welfare, and they take ours very seriously also. We are in contract with each other.
When our buddies are ill, we go to the greatest lengths to ensure that they recover, they are members of our family, they are our children and they view us the same way, we look out for each other – because that is what mates do for each other.
Our companions are the best mates and link buddies we can have for our health, physically and most assuredly … mentally.
Rory Matier – The Tee Shirt Blogger
Ps: These posts are my views on my autism/Asperger’s, they may not be everyone else’s who is on the spectrum.