The Importance of Having ‘Emotional Vitamins’

The Importance of Having ‘Emotional Vitamins’
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I can’t stand dogs.

They bark a lot. They smell. They require a lot of attention. They tend to whine when I’m on the phone. So, yeah, I can’t stand them.

Relax, people! I’m just kidding!

I wanted to get your attention for a couple of minutes so you could focus on something other than news about the coronavirus.

As I write this, my dog, Baby Girl, is sprawled out on the sofa, her body resting on a blue body pillow that used to be mine. She opens her eyes every once in a while to stare at my wife, Jill, and me while we sit on another sofa in the living room. She feels the need to open her eyes every once in a while, as if to reassure herself that the people who serve her are still around.

Baby Girl. (Photo by Carlos Briceño)

I’m sure you’re not surprised to learn the living room is practically hers. Here’s what’s scattered on the floor: several chewed-up plastic and animal bones; a stuffed toy squirrel with several parts of the body ripped away (she is fierce when it comes into biting into toy animals); a tennis ball; a small, squished soccer ball; a small dog bed with a tail at one end and a dog’s head at the other; an old bedspread that she sleeps on often; and a stuffed toy turtle with one of its legs torn off (like I said, she’s fierce).

On the floor, in front of the sofa she lays upon, is a pillow from a love seat we don’t use any more. She uses it as a stepping stone from which to jump on to the sofa since her legs don’t have the same spring as when she was younger. She’s 11 years old now.

In case you don’t know it by now, this is her home. Jill and I are lucky she allows us to live here. I share all this to explain that dogs are better than cotton candy on a lazy summer day. They are, according to an Animal Planet show on cute dogs, “emotional vitamins.”

As the husband of someone with a terminal illness — Jill was diagnosed with Huntington’s disease in 2018 — I am grateful that Baby Girl is in our lives. When life gets sad or when there’s anxiety in the air (turn on CNN, you’ll see what I mean), dogs are a great, cute distraction.

But there is a deeper, more serious point I’m trying to make here, which is that that owning a dog can lead to a decrease in stress and blood pressure. Based on how often Jill and I laugh when Baby Girl does something cute — like giving us five with one of her paws or seeing her tail wag all the time — or smart, I would heartily agree that our lives are more joyful because of her presence.

I realize that not every family who has a family member with a terminal illness can own a dog. I also realize that not everyone loves dogs. Perhaps they prefer cats. Or fish. Ultimately, what I’m recommending is that having a pet is a great tool for caregivers, especially ones that you can take out for a walk when you get bored of being inside your home all the time.

If you don’t or can’t own a pet, then at the very least turn on the Animal Planet channel or surf the internet. There are plenty of adorable videos of animals doing what they do best — entertaining us — that will lower your anxiety levels during these crazy days.

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Note: Huntington’s Disease News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Huntington’s Disease News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Huntington’s disease.

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