A week ago this Wednesday, I was talking with a writing pal over coffee at my favorite café. Well, Sharon had the coffee, I had a bagel. But I digress. We touched on many topics, but one that sticks out to me most was about animals and how good they are for us humans.
Some people, who are not animal people, don’t understand what a difference a pet can make to their human. Pets can…
- Lower our blood pressure
- Bring us happiness
- Protect us from intruders and from disease-bearing vermin
- Give us purpose
According to WebMD, petting an animal can help lower your blood pressure. In my mind, it’s almost like meditating on something good: You focus your mind and emotions on positive things when you’re meditating or doing something good for someone. How is petting an animal much different? You are doing something good for the animal enjoying pats, which in turn brings you some joy. Plus, come on, purring cats, anyone?
Also according to WebMD, petting an animal helps your body to relax and release a relaxation hormone. It also cuts down on the stress hormone, which brings us back to blood pressure. (Stress is known to raise blood pressure.)
I’ve had cats catch mice and birds that had managed to get into the house. Mice can be disease carriers, and they leave the droppings wherever they go. (Don’t worry; everyone here is up to date on shots, and we don’t get mice and birds in the house anymore.) Then there are our canine friends. A group of strange men approached my mom once with obvious bad intentions, and my mom used our “ferocious” dog to ward them off.
This is the point I wanted to spend the most time on. Every being on earth has a purpose, even though it’s often hard to find. One tangible way of knowing we have worth is a God-given relationship with something or someone helpless or hurting, something/someone that relies on us for protection, help, and comfort.
I don’t know how open I’ve been on this blog about my OCD and depression, but here I go: My OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) started flaring up around age eight. Depression came later at around age thirteen, after a traumatic incident in sixth grade Sunday school. It built and festered and ate away at me and when I was about to turn eighteen, things got bad—middle of the night emergency room bad.
Things continued to get worse, even after I adopted Chester in the spring of ’03. We were close, Chester and I. I cuddled and coddled him, and this shy little guy loved on me unconditionally. In the summer of ’05, I had to move out for a while in order to cope with OCD stuff. And I heard that Chester had a personality change and was crying for me.
I was able to move back in, but my OCD was not getting any better. Neither was the depression. It was eating me alive, and I couldn’t stop it. We moved—thank GOD—to where we live now, and in February of ’11, something horrible happened: Chester was diagnosed with renal failure. He had gone from healthy and playing to dying before my eyes. But he pulled through that rough weekend, and I was given a long list of things to do to help my boy:
- He could only eat a special diet of low crude fat foot ($$)
- A slurry of meds for a few days
- He had to have ¼ of an antacid pill once a day (do you know how HARD it is getting a pill down a cat?)
- Subcutaneous fluids every day at first, then once a week, then every other week, then once a month
- Regular vet trips, which required fasting
- Epakitin (a powdered medicine that helps absorb bad stuff in cats’ stomach) twice a day ($$)
- A low-stress environment
- Lots of fresh water
So I got to work. I set my alarm to get up and give him his Epakitin. I caught him often so my mom could administer the fluids. We kept home calm. All of these things, plus lots of prayers, kept Chester alive for another five years—going on six years, even. He passed away two days before New Year’s Day, 2017. He lived a long, happy life, even with renal failure.
What kept me going for those 5+ years? Chester needed me. He gave me a reason to get up, take care of myself, and to keep going, even when I was miserable. That gave me the purpose I needed to pull through the hardest of times. I had the family I needed to make it through. God used them for sure, but Chester was one of the biggest sources of help and comfort that He sent me during those dark days.
Now I’m doing well. I still have struggles, but I’ve found new reasons to keep going, now that Chester is gone. And I will never forget him. I was good to him, and he certainly was good for me.
Keep your nose in a book,
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