Better Living With Pets

Whether walking your dog or snuggling with your kitten, the health benefits are unquestionable.

by Kitty Yanko, Peoria Humane Society
Peoria Humane Society therapy dog, Napoleon, giving some joy to a Bradley student during a therapy dog visit during finals week.
Peoria Humane Society therapy dog, Napoleon, giving some joy to a Bradley student during a therapy dog visit during finals week.

There is a special bond between people and pets that cannot be denied. Many years of research and countless studies show that the physical health and overall wellbeing of people improve when pets are present. Simply petting an animal, for example, has been shown to lower blood pressure and reduce one’s heart rate. Pets provide love, companionship, emotional support and most importantly, they give unconditional love. They also provide an increased sense of security and purpose for many people. In short, pets can give people a reason to live! 

Furry Antidepressants
Many seniors struggle with a feeling of isolation and loneliness that can lead to depression and decreased physical activity. Pets are great companions, providing opportunities for connection and lending a sense of safety and comfort when we’re lonely. When Lois Smith lost her husband of 62 years, she found comfort in the company of her two dogs, Cally and Bella. “My dogs gave me an opportunity to get up and be active,” she says. “Without them, I probably would not have gotten out of my chair some days.” Cally and Bella—both adopted from Peoria County Animal Protection Services (PCAPS)—gave Lois a reason to move around and exercise, which is so important to maintaining good health. 

Walking a dog provides more than just physical activity—it also opens up possibilities to engage and socialize with other people. Going to a dog park, for example, not only socializes your dog, but opens up opportunities for conversations with other dog owners. (And if you’re single, it’s a great way to make a love connection!)

Pets offer many psychological benefits for children as well, including higher self-esteem and empathy. Research shows that teenagers who own pets have a more positive outlook on life and report less loneliness, restlessness, despair and boredom. Caring for a pet also gives them a sense of purpose and accomplishment—and gets them away from their devices! Just physically interacting with pets naturally elevates levels of serotonin and dopamine, and who couldn’t use that? 

Lois Smith with her dogs, Cally & Bella
Lois Smith finds comfort with her dogs, Cally & Bella. Photo by Greg Balzell

People Make Pets Happy, Too!
Of course, the bond between people and animals goes both ways. Countless dogs and cats find a forever home through adoption from an animal shelter, humane society or rescue. They find a place to be loved, cared for and belong—to be part of a family! 

The Peoria Humane Society (PHS) understands the extraordinary value of the human-animal bond. In the organization’s 80-plus-year history, they have remained committed to playing a vital role in helping to place pets in homes through adoptions from the animal shelter, as well as sharing animals with people in need through their pet therapy program. Working cooperatively, PHS and PCAPS promote the well-being of animals through a variety of programs. Together, we can make a difference—for both people and animals. PM

Kitty Yanko is education coordinator for the Peoria Humane Society. Visit PCAPS or call (309) 672-2440 for information about animal adoption. For information on the human-animal bond or to learn more about the PHS pet therapy program, call (309) 682-9015 or visit

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