We all know that pets can have a very therapeutic effect on their owners. There have been countless articles written on the subject, and many stories shared about how pets support the health of their owners.
But, what about the health of our pets? How does our health affect our furry family members?
This is the story of my poor dog’s journey through cancer at my side.
I had two dogs while I was sick. The eldest of the two, Zoe, mimicked my side effects through chemotherapy and after every surgery. The youngest, Liesl (also known as “the dog who needs a Xanax”), simply snuggled in at my side and watched over me. They both did, but more of my attention was focused upon Zoe due to her extreme reactions.
If I had nausea, Zoe would get sick. If I experienced severe joint pain, Zoe would be practically immobile. After my hysterectomy, I was convinced that Zoe was dying because she refused her food and seemed to be suffering. In so many ways, Zoe’s suffering helped motivate me to try my best to recover more quickly. It’s one thing to suffer, but another altogether to cause suffering.
Throughout all of this, Liesl’s greatest reaction was anxiety.
What I never accounted for was how unhealthy she was becoming while I was unable to maintain the same active lifestyle I had always had.
I recovered, and then we had to contend with the fact that Liesl had become obese, and unaccustomed to socializing.
My journey to recovery has not only taken place hand-in-hand with my partner and my children, but also “leash in hand” with my dog. As I’ve grown strong again, she has resumed hiking with me. She runs with me again. She travels in the car to run errands with me, and learn how to socialize all over again as if from puppyhood onward.
Our pets keep us healthier, but it is wise to remember that it is a two way street. We are the stewards of our four-legged family members’ health. They depend on us to keep them well, while staying close through our darkest hours.
Don’t forget that your own health is an experience shared by your pets. They need to recover right along with you.