I’ve always appreciated the ability of animals to make bad feelings better. There always seems to be something interesting going on with animals that makes the day more pleasant and happy. Of course, there is an almost continuous array of bird song in our area during the daylight hours. Just the happy song of birds is enough to make me smile.
When the native birds add antics to the mix, I sometimes get a good laugh in as well. Such is the case with a little downy woodpecker that visits the feeder near our house. He never seems to arrive right side up. No, despite his best efforts, he always seems to hit the perch upside down and must fight his way to an upright position. The vibrant mix of colors doesn’t help the woodpecker’s cause—he looks a bit like a clown anyway. Our particular downy woodpecker seems to have a bit more head color than pictures I see online show, but far less than a red headed woodpecker.
Now, when you mix native birds with chickens, you really get a visual treat. In most cases, the chickens try their best to ignore the native birds because they’re obviously better (at least, as far as the chickens are concerned). However, the other day the chickens didn’t have much choice in the matter because some sparrows decided to have fun with them. Imagine this scene for a moment, chickens running madly about flapping their wings and clucking crazily while sparrows are dive bombing them. I laughed so hard that it took several minutes for me to compose myself enough to come to the chicken’s aid.
In a contrast to the antics of the chickens, our rabbits are lovers, not fighters. They often need a hug. At the top of the hugging list is Twilight. She always wants a hug whenever I open her cage to feed her. In fact, she actively pursues hugs every time I walk by. She does this odd sort of clapping motion to attract my attention by sitting on her hind feet and moving her front paws back and forth.
Entertainment isn’t something that happens just outside either. Our dog Reese is hysterical. For one thing, she can’t go anywhere in a straight line. She runs in circles every time she goes from one place to another. When she’s excited, she mixes the frantic circles with a mix of barking and baying. How any one dog can look so happy and absurd at the same time is amazing.
Whenever Shelby (our other dog) senses that I’m blue, she offers me a paw. She’s not really looking for a handshake. Instead, she wants me to hold the paw—possibly for as long as I need to do so. So, I hold her paw and she washes my hand. It’s therapeutic, even if it does get a bit wet.
Another washer is Smucker who offers kisses by the gross. He likes to lean into my side and then wash my arms, hands, or other exposed body parts. Of course, the bath comes complete with purring.
Finally, Sugar Plum is absolutely frantic about getting petted. She’ll keep nuzzling me until I pet her (and keep petting her until she’s satisfied that I’ve petted her enough). Her purr is a bit louder than Smucker’s purr (as is her meow).
All of these behaviors (and many others) serve to help keep my calm and feeling good. I can actually measure a change in both blood pressure and heart rate after interacting with the animals. Many medical studies have noted similar results with other people, so I’m definitely not alone. The point is that animals provide benefits far beyond companionship and laughter. They also make it easier for people to deal with a host of problems in their lives. Let me know about your health benefit experience with a pet at [email protected].