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A Grieving Man’s Best Friend

Dogs are known as man’s best friend, however, there are many companion animals that can help with emotional healing. Are you struggling to cope with the loss of a loved one? You may want to consider getting a pet. If you live in a city, your best animal friend is probably a dog or a cat; perhaps even a ferret or hamster. If you live in the country, your best animal friend may be a dog, cat, horse, goat, cow, sheep or any number of animals. One of my good friends just loves her sheep and considers them each to be very special to her and great companions.

Studies have shown that animals (particularly dogs and cats) can help a person living with high levels of stress, grief, anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress syndrome, and loneliness. Animal companions have been shown to help physical health, as well as, emotional health.

According to Doctors Foster and Smith Educational Staff dogs have been found to help in all of the following areas of physical health:

  • Increase longevity after heart attacks.
  • Lower cholesterol and triglycerides.
  • Decrease blood pressure and reduce stress.
  • Increase physical activity and functioning.
  • Reduce medical appointments and minor health problems.
  • Predict seizures.
  • Alert to hypoglycemia.

There are many stories of dogs helping people cope with their grief. One of the most uplifting stories is from a funeral home in Greenwood, Indiana.  Jeff Herrmann, owner of G.H. Herrmann was concerned about the impact grieving was having on his client. He wanted to help them get through the grief of losing a loved one at the same time they were planning a funeral. He discussed his concerns with a friend who trains therapy dogs. Kevin Knartzer recommended he have a dog at the funeral home. He told Herrmann he thought a therapy dog might help. Since that time

Since that time Herrmann has introduced dogs to his funeral homes. He now has four dogs. In his opinion, they have helped adults and children during the entire funeral planning process, in addition to the actual funerals.

“It lifts people’s spirits. Dogs give people a chance to take a break from their biggest worry and really have a moment to think of something else,” Knartzer said. “People almost transfer their feelings to the dog. It gives them that respite for a moment.”

Another example of a person getting a pet, to help with stress and anxiety is the story shared by Stephanie Starkis, Ph.D. in The Healing Power of Pets: How a cat changed a life. Her cat was able to help fulfill her basic need- to be needed by someone or something. Often, grieving leaves a person feeling lost and isolated in the world, so having a strong connection with an animal helps alleviate some of that pain.

So, if you are looking for a way to change your life to help overcome your loss of a loved one, consider getting a dog or cat! Taking care of, nurturing or playing with a pet has great benefits Deciding to get a pet is one decision that can provide you with a long-term companion to alleviate the loneliness of the grieving process. Just make sure you are ready for the long-term commitment needed when giving a pet a good home.

Sarkis, Stephanie, Ph. D., “The Healing Power of Pets: How a cat changed a life. Psychology Today,
Trares, Ryan.,  Associated Press, “Funeral home dogs help comfort grieving families.” Washington Times,
Drs. Foster and Smith Educational Staff., “Why Man’s Best Friend is Man’s Best Friend.” Doctors Fosther and Smith, 09/02/17

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