A Man’s Best Friend: How Pets Improve Mental Health

Sherman, Mrs. Hewitts dog, sleeps during his time off after spending the day raising spirits around campus.

Sherman, Mrs. Hewitt’s dog, sleeps during his time off after spending the day raising spirits around campus.

Have you ever been having a bad day and been comforted by a dog? Studies done by the American Heart Association (AHA) show that dogs reduce stress, anxiety, and depression; ease loneliness; encourage exercise, and improve overall health. Along with those benefits, there is less chance of a cardiac event.

As dogs now roam around the DLC from time to time, many students have noticed a decrease in stress levels and anxiety when they are around a dog.

“I have dogs at home who always are around me, so when I see the dogs at school I get happy and I forgot about all the stressful things I have going on in my life,” said junior Hayley Womble.

The upper school usually hosts a dog on campus about one day a week: either Sherman Hewitt (furry son of Media Director Mrs.Kristen Hewitt) or Winnie Yates (hairy companion of Student Services Counselor Dr. Renea Yates). The two animals provide support for all those on campus. Some students even try to find the dogs before their tests to help them prepare.

“I love seeing Sherman on campus. I try to find him before my quizzes or tests as I feel I do better when I am calmer,” said sophomore Rangeley Newmeyer.

Mrs. Hewitt believes having her dog at school helps the students in the DLC study and work more efficiently.

“One of the things I noticed is it seems like every time Sherman comes like I have a student who has a bad day or there’s somebody who’s kind of just down or they got a bad grade. Having Sherman here makes students just want to snuggle up and pet him, so he just brings a smile to their faces and makes things a little more easygoing,” exclaimed Mrs. Hewitt.

As the School is considered a workplace, the AHA backs Mrs. Hewitt’s claims as pets in the workplace reduce stress and invoke employee satisfaction. Pets also provide companionship which increases productivity, physical fitness, and togetherness.

Although Dogs are a great stress reliever, 15 percent of  Americans are allergic to dogs including junior Andrew Lappin.

“I have been allergic to dogs my whole life,” said a saddened Lappin. “ Although I think they are cute and I hope they help the other students, they just do not help me. I have to find other ways to reduce stress like playing pickleball with my friends,” he added.

Although dogs are the go-to pet at Benjamin, it does not have to be a dog or a cat that helps your health. According to helpguide.org, owning a rabbit, a bird, or even a lizard or snake can be beneficial. Even fish can help reduce muscle tension.

Pets are also great for many other things rather than just reducing stress and anxiety, for example, pets can help you meet new people, add structure to your daily routine, and even help you lose weight as a study at Northeastern University found that owners that regularly walked their dog had an increase in weight loss.

Along with pets being helpful in people’s homes and at school, dogs are now being used in the medical field more often. The main contribution dogs make is aiding the blind and others by being service dogs. For example, many service dogs know to lay in between the ground and their owner during episodes to prevent brain damage. Pets also aid to humans who have Alzheimer’s disease and dementia as Research at the University of California at Davis concluded that Alzheimer’s patients suffer less stress and have fewer anxious outbursts if there is a dog or cat in the home.

Along with the many health benefits pets present, they can also aid in the raising of a child. Pets are proven to teach empathy, responsibility, and compassion. They also reduce separation anxiety and reduce the risk of allergies according to helpguide.org. Children with learning disabilities are also more likely to be equipped with handling in-school situations if they have a dog in their life.

Overall, pets are not only our cute friends, but our real-life superheroes; they help everyone from infants to senior citizens through everyday challenges. It is no wonder that more and more households across the world are adopting the idea of having pets inside their homes.