Friday, 20 February 2009

Shabba Remedy

If I’m honest, I found the idea of ‘pet therapy’ rather creepy because for some inexplicable reason it made me think of the well meaning, but slightly malodorous and decidedly odd ‘cat ladies’ who used to live up my street when I was a kid, who shared their home with upward of 10 local stray cats. I say no more!

So it was with pleasant surprise that pets (dogs in particular) were mentioned in our research by more than one very normal and lovely seeming ‘loopy’, as being hugely helpful in making things better for them. Whilst I acknowledged this anecdotally and it was highlighted in our report, I have to confess it was not something that I gave any serious consideration to in relation to myself.

Whilst I love dogs and grew up with them as a permanent and much loved part of my childhood, Tony and I decided that we wouldn’t want one of our own before we had children. This is because we both see a dog as an integral part of childhood, so in our minds, dogs and kids kind of come together. Like children, pets come with their ‘drawbacks’; not least mess, fur, expense and responsibility. And let’s be honest, they impede on the much valued freedom of a pre-kids couple. So we have always had the attitude, let’s wait for kids to be on the agenda before we get a pet: a kind of ‘in for a penny, in for a pound’ mentality.

It was therefore mainly out of love for my parents that I agreed to house and care for Shabba, my mum’s precious Labrador, while she and Dad were away on holiday. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love Shabba but he has always been a dog with significant ‘issues’ and not a pet for the faint hearted! If you have read Marley and Me by John Grogan you will get the idea (if you haven’t, you should!), although thankfully he has chilled-out somewhat in his old age. So, whilst I was more than happy to help, I thought it was going to be a bit of a hassle.

The funny thing is Shabba has now been with us here for a week, and not only am I really enjoying having him to stay, I have to confess I have really noticed the benefits of his presence on my health and mood.

Over the last couple of weeks I have been having a bit of an ‘amber’ patch (hence I haven’t blogged recently) – I’m not completely ill (red), but not exactly well either – I guess many of you ‘loopies’ will know what I mean - but Shabba’s constant cheerfulness and general agreeableness has really helped lift me! Obviously gentle exercise is also something proven to improve lupus symptoms, so having Shabba to stay has also meant I have been getting out in the fresh air and getting some exercise, at a time when I would have been inclined to ‘hole up’ and stay in. Dare I say it, all this sounds like therapy ... pet therapy at that!?

In search of explanation I found this which seems to make a lot of sense:

It seems even the established medical profession see something in it. If I manage to persuade my husband to let me get a dog of my own (unlikely: he is as stubborn as me) maybe I’ll see if I can have it added to my prescription!


I am also glad to say that if I was ‘prescribed’ a dog, a good friend of mine has promised to let me know if I show signs of turning into a weird, eccentric, ‘pet lady' whose dog is patently a child substitute (signs of this include cooking meals for pets or dressing them in any kind of clothing – and bows in their hair are definitely out, even jewelled collars are borderline in my book!) to ‘nip it in the bud’ ...

Anyway, on a more serious note, all this just goes to show that it is worth considering everything, and that anything is worth a try - even if it is not something that you would naturally think is for you. You never know, it could work out better than you think.