Kim and CindyLu write thought provoking and informative articles that relate to the unconditional, non- judgemental love that our vulnerable friends in the animal world have to share with us. If you have never visited the site of CindyLu'sMuse, Penny the Jack Russell dog and modest internet star and myself, highly recommend that you check it out.
Thanks Kim and CindyLu. I am honoured and privileged that you would do a guest posting for me. The posting is titled, "A Friend Of A Different Kind."
Gary writes regularly about the issues surrounding mental illness, emphasizing the need to remove the stigmas attached to this subject in our society. I write regularly about animals - pets in particular - with an emphasis on the positive actions people take to improve the lot of our beloved, furry friends. Subjects miles apart? I think not. I believe that the pain and discomforts of many mental illnesses can often be eased by the love and companionship offered by one's pet.
There are a myriad of different types of pets. Any of these can offer us friendship, a sense of value, some even exercise, conversation - with an added benefit for us of improved health. Life is less lonely, more valuable, and much more fun. Although caring for a pet is not for everyone, many of us benefit immensely from sharing our lives with them.
I've had pets all of my adult life, and have always considered them a part of the family. Somehow, they were never just "mere" animals. The more time I spent with an animal, the more I felt less superior as a human. Pets forgive, forget, always afford us a second chance. Imagine if all people were that way! Pets offer complete trust, unconditional love and loyalty. How could I feel that I, as a human being, were possibly superior to that?
For the past going-on seven years now, I've volunteered for a pet rescue organization. Almost Home Foundation is dedicated to saving the lives of as many dogs and cats as it can. Sometimes we rescue pets from high-kill shelters or faraway places where there is such an overabundance of them, saving them from being euthanized. It can be a saddening, frustrating, disillusioning job at times, but because of human ignorance or greed, not because of the animals. These dogs and cats in need keep us motivated.
How did I get started in the pet rescue field? Well, It was actually because of my son. He'd been suffering through years of depression, anxiety, difficulties with school. When my neighbors (a wonderful couple dedicated to making this world better) told me about the organization they were involved in, a thought occurred to me. My son had always loved animals.
I knew that there were therapeutic benefits to spending time with animals, and thought that perhaps also by getting involved in helping dogs my son would have an activity that took his mind off his troubles. There's something quite healing about focusing on the suffering or needs of someone else less fortunate.
He began by volunteering as a "dog handler" at adoption events. Every Saturday and Sunday, he would be assigned a dog, given all the details known about it. Then he'd spend the next four hours talking with people who wanted to know more about the dog, ensuring the dog was comfortable and on its best behavior, chatting with other volunteers, helping people in the adoption process when they chose his dog.
He loved it, looked forward to the weekends, and became impressively adept with both dog handling and many other duties for these events. It boosted his confidence, showed him he was worthy - and the affection from the dogs themselves gave him positive feelings.
I learned then the immense influence pets can have in our lives. When the organization began working with cats as well, we became a foster home. Little did I know that within two months' time, my home would be filled with litters of kittens and an occasional adult cat. My children reveled in doing what they could to help these homeless animals.
As a divorced woman with four children at home, a job and a house to maintain - one might think I was utterly nuts to be taking on these additional responsibilities. Truth is, I believe they actually saved me. Daily life was quite challenging and stressful; having these adorable creatures at home to nurture, enjoying their cute antics, the snuggles and purrs - were stress-busters. You cannot continue to feel anxious, angry, stressed...if a little furball is curling up against you, purring away.
Just like for my son, being involved with something that was much larger than just myself helped me cope with my own life's ups and downs. It gave me a wider perspective of the world, kept me from concentrating solely on myself and my worries. It afforded the chance to meet new people, make new friends. Many of these people also struggle in one way or another, and find it just as therapeutic to be a part of the organization, and in doing something good for homeless pets.
You don't have to volunteer with a pet organization in order to reap the benefits these animals offer. Just having a pet of your own can help. The unadulterated adoration and loyalty of a dog, the purring cuddles of a cat - the connection you feel with an animal of any type when you care for it, knowing you are responsible for its well-being - are all uplifting, positive reinforcements to whatever fragile part of your mind or soul is in need.
This is a difficult world we live in. Daily life can be challenging at best, horribly cruel at worst. Not one of us is perfect; we all each have our private demons we battle with. It's nice to know that we have been provided with some measure of companionship, peace and contentment - by some of God's blessed creatures...those known as "pets".