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Sat, Aug. 24

Counselor's Column: Pets help people in every way

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With May being Mental Health Awareness Month, it is a good time to look at different potential pathways to wellness like physical activity, improved nutrition and meditation. One such pathway could be pet ownership. According to WebMD, studies show that animals can reduce tension and improve mood. Along with treatment, pets can help people with mild to moderate depression feel better. If you're depressed, here's a rundown of how pet ownership may benefit you.

• Uncomplicated love: Pets do not judge your feelings or try to give you advice.

• Responsibility: Having the responsibility of a pet can help give you a sense of value and importance, knowing you are capable to care for another life.

• Activity: Pets help you stay physically active.

• Routine: Having a routine with your pet can help you get up in the mornings and stay on track for your day.

• Companionship: Depression can be isolating, but with a pet you are never alone.

• Social interaction: Having a pet can be a natural icebreaker to start communicating to others.

• Touch: Studies show that people feel better with physical contact. Petting a dog or cat can lower your heart rate.

• Better health: Overall health is improved with lower blood pressure, reduced stress hormones, and higher levels of the feel-good chemicals of the brain.

But before you consider a pet to help with depression, ask yourself the following: are you comfortable with animals?; will having a pet make you worry?; is your depression too intense right now?; can you afford a pet?

The Prescott area is fortunate to have pets for adoption at our local humane society, the Yavapai Humane Society (YHS). Not only do they offer dog and cat adoptions, but they also offer other programs such as low-cost spay/neuter clinics and humane education.

According to Ed Boks, executive director of YHS, "Research has revealed that dog owners exhibit greater benefits than non-owners in areas as far ranging as self-esteem, physical fitness, sociability, happiness, and overall health. Pet ownership has also helped alleviate symptoms of depression among terminally ill patients, the elderly and veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In fact, many innovative therapies today targeting our returning veterans specifically integrate canine therapy, with some resources referring to the presence of dogs as 'life-savers' for these veterans." If you are interested in finding out more about YHS, check out its website at www.yavapaihumane.org.

In honor of the role animals can play in one's life, West Yavapai Guidance Clinic is giving away a free book called "Whisker Wisdom," by local author, R.W. Brooks. "Whisker Wisdom" is a heartwarming tale about two Siamese kittens and how they helped their "Dad" overcome severe depression and learn how to love and play again. Contact Tina Blake at t.blake@wygc.org or call 445-5211, ext 3634, to request one of the limited copies.

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