Hundreds of thousands of therapy animal certifications have been issued in America over the past few years. Covid aside, it seems the incredible pressures of modern life have taken their toll on most of us, and many have adopted pets to cope.
Animals provide companionship, even if it’s just to watch TV with us on the couch. They seem to know when we’re sad or ill and are there to offer their kind eyes, kisses, and tail wags to help us feel better, especially if you have a dog.
Pets distract us from tough times with their own antics. Our dogs and cats provide emotional support, regardless of whether they’re certified to do so. Dogs in particular are known to save lives and seem to have a natural ability to pick up on our feelings, as well as any potential danger nearby.
Stephen Knight of Dallas, TX, told NBC News BETTER, “The bond between man and dog is something that can really cure a lot of emptiness.”
He continued: “I’m a recovering addict, six years clean and sober. I did work in non-profits and social services but went into addiction hardcore and ended up homeless, living out of my car, and losing everything in life that matters.”
Getting a dog eight months into recovery “changed my life,” Knight said. “There’s a lot of voids that you fill with drinking and drugs. Dogs can replace that with their love. Having a dog taught me how to trust again and how to build a relationship.”
Therapy dogs were even brought to comfort children in Newtown, CT, who witnessed the Sandy Hook shooting. Some of the children who hadn’t spoken about the shooting began to open up when the dogs were present. One little boy even talked directly to one of the therapy dogs about what happened.
Ryan Matthews, a combat veteran turned celebrity dog trainer, shared a similar story.
“Possibly the greatest teachers in life are dogs. I know that has been true for me,” Matthews has said. “Dogs show us how to love. After my military service, I opened a pet dog training company and throughout the years, I have worked with thousands of dogs and their owners. In that time, dogs have taught me far more than I have ever taught them, and for that I am forever grateful.”
He continued: “When I came home from the war, I was numb, shut-off, and detached from the world and my own feelings. Eventually, I was able to open my heart back up. Dogs made it feel safe to do so and for that I have dedicated my life to giving back to them.”
Clearly, dogs have an extraordinary ability to provide emotional support when others cannot, which is a blessing. For so many, life is vastly improved by the presence of a furry companion, whether they save our lives or just bring us joy.