I checked out a link on twitter today and loved the article so much I just had to write a bit about it
Written by an animal loving leukemia patient the article shares her experience of getting ‘prescribed’ a puppy during her recovery. She focuses on the many benefits she has experienced in her life and I think some of her points are ones that anyone who knows a cancer patient should think about.
The puppy has provided a positive attention draw, she is no longer identified as the ‘bald-lady with cancer’, she is now ‘the (bald) lady with the sweet puppy’ to the general public and that is freeing, she is more than her diagnosis or disease, she is not just a receiver of care, but a giver of care.
In her more intimate relationship with her boyfriend this has provided the both of them a focus for their attentions that doesn’t have to do with treatment or symptom management.
Taking the puppy walking and to obedience classes also get her out into the wider world regularly, providing both stimulation (mental and social) and exercise (an important part of regaining her “normal” life).
I particularly loved the idea of the comfort and cheer listening to the puupy’s heartbeat and feeling his warmth bring to her. I was reminded of new Mom’s being encouraged to hold their children close to their bodies to soothe them with their warmth, scent and the sound of their hearts. Research has demonstrated that this snuggling lowers babies heart rates, reduces their stress levels and that they fuss less often – perhaps she is enjoying similar benefits.
If you know people going through cancer treatment – especially long and/or high-risk treatments – remember that though you and they need the opportunity to talk about the illness that your relationship goes beyond that and that they may already have had lots of opportunity to talk about their treatment. Be open to talking about their disease and treatment but remember they are not just a patient, their your friend.
Once upon a time, because of the risk of cross-infection with your pet, or your pet bringing in dirt and contaminants the ill and the elderly were not encouraged to have pets. In recent years that has been changing. Cats, and sometimes dogs, can now be found in nursing and retirement facilities as group pets. These animals provide the residents with company and entertainment. HIV/AIDS patients, with their lowered immune function, were encouraged to give up pets they had, not just avoid adding a pet, in earlier days. Now the emotional and social benefits of having a pet to love and care for and to be cared for by have been show to improve immune function and reduce depression in patients.