Pets Can Heal: Therapeutic Stories from Owners

Companionship creates the closeness and familiarity that everyone needs. This can be even more beneficial when having a bad day or when going through a tough situation. As humans, we are privileged to have some four-legged friends to help us through these hard moments in life.

Pets have been proven to improve people’s mental health, but they can also be beneficial to physical health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, physical health benefits of owning a pet include decreased cholesterol levels, decreased blood pressure, increased opportunities for fitness and outdoor activities and decreased triglyceride levels.

In regards to mental health, The Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals reports on how pets can relieve depression by being there for owners when they’re feeling lonely. They also help give their owners the opportunity to go outside, and create a calm environment. Pets have also been proven to improve social behaviour in children with autism through interacting better, increasing talking, making physical contact and looking at faces.

Gabby Montesano's cats, Max and Mila. 

In the summer of 2017, the left side of my body went numb. I would wake up in the middle of night with pain and tingles all over. I brushed it off and thought I’d just hurt myself in the gym. By the first week of September, I lost vision in my right eye. I realized that this was serious and went to the emergency room. The next day, I found out that I had multiple sclerosis.

Multiple sclerosis, or MS, is a chronic neurological disease of the brain and spinal cord. The diagnosis took a toll on me and I entered a depressive state. I stopped going to school, I wouldn’t see my friends and I would hardly ever leave the couch -- this lasted for weeks. That’s when my family decided to get a cat. We arrived at a woman’s home who was giving away free kittens and immediately fell in love with two.

We ended up bringing home both beautiful kittens. They immediately made my worries go away. I no longer focused on my unknown future living with MS and spent my time taking care of Max and Mila. They gave me the peace of mind that I needed during this difficult time. Soon enough, I felt strong enough to go back to school, start working out again and spend time with family and friends. I owe my recovery to them.

Here are some other stories from pet owners on how their pets have helped them through hard times:

Brittany Fontes and Coco

Earlier this year, Brittany Fontes was admitted to the hospital and diagnosed with Severe Acute Pancreatitis. Pancreatitis is a disease in which the pancreas becomes inflamed. It’s a sudden inflammation that lasts for a short period of time but it can range from mild discomfort to life-threatening. In Fontes’ case, it was life-threatening.

She ended up in the ICU after her heart rate increased to 180 BPM. Her lungs were extremely swollen, effecting her ability to breathe properly. Fontes spent nearly 2 weeks in the ICU ‘till she was out on life support for another 2 weeks after that. Her dog, Coco, helped her get through this terrifying time in her life.

“When I finally got out of ICU and got put into a regular room, all I could think about was her [Coco] and how I had left her for so long without saying bye,” said Fontes.

She cried to her nurses and asked to see her precious pup but they declined due to the allergens that dogs can expose in hospitals. “We came up with a plan that I would go down in a wheelchair to the lobby and we would bring her in that way,” said Fontes.

“I can’t describe the feeling when I first saw her, but I just broke down in tears,” said Fontes, “I could tell she also didn’t really know how to react but we just cuddled for a bit and I cried and it was so good to feel a little semblance of normality after laying in a bed for so long.” Two days after she saw Coco, she was healthy enough to be discharged from the hospital. “I don’t think it’s an accident that I got a lot better once I saw her and was able to interact with her,” said Fontes.

Coco didn’t leave Fontes’ side while she recovered at home. “When I would cry she would get all worried and lick my hands,” said Fontes, “she’s just an angel and I couldn’t have done any of this without her.”

Jessie Fawcett and Cooper

Jessie Fawcett was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and major depressive disorder (MDD). Her depressive episodes and panic attacks can lead her to sob and scream for hours alone in her room but her dog, Cooper, has been her saviour through these hardships.

“Even when I feel completely alone at least I know that I have him,” said Fawcett.

Security is a huge priority for Fawcett as she says that Cooper makes her feel safe when she needs it the most. “He gives me warmth and compassion. When I’m in a state of crisis he will come lay on top of me and lick me until I pet him back,” said Fawcett.

Even when she’s only having a bad day or feeling under the weather, Cooper will stay with her ‘till she feels better, “...without him, it would make life unfathomable.”

Melisa Ramadani and Sadie

Melisa Kamadani lost her best friend when she was just a puppy. She was her first dog and she was completely heartbroken. One of her dad’s friends had gifted it to her when she was feeling low about her MS diagnosis in 2014.

“I came home from school one day about a month after I lost my puppy and there was a dog there,” said Kamadani.

This dog, now known as Sadie, had been recently hit by a car and was having trouble finding a new home since no one wanted to adopt her. Sadie was cut up, bruised and looked like she was in pain.

“Sadie ran right up to me and didn’t want to leave my arms,” said Kamadani, “they even told me that she didn’t like anyone else they took her to meet except for me.”

Kamadani thought her and Sadie found each other when they needed it the most.

“My little Sadie healed my heart after losing a pup,” said Kamadani, “and I helped her heal her wounds and her heart.”