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Furry Friends for a Longer Life

Our house has two inhabitants that are non-human and furry: Our 7 year-old Border Collie Lucy and our 2-1/2 year old Guinea Pig Coco. They are warm, cuddly creatures who are spoiled by every human inhabitant of this house and are just as much as much a member of our family as the rest of us!

My wife and I have always been animal lovers. Growing-up, she had two dogs and my family had one. Between the ages of 10-12, I also had a couple of hamsters that I took care of all by myself. We are Brookfield Zoo members and regularly support animal shelters. When our first dog passed away, we waited a few months, but sure enough, we got ourselves another dog. I was sad and took his death hard as it took me some time to get over his death because he died suddenly. After I spent enough time grieving, we looked around and sure enough we found another dog that melted our hearts.

On a funny note, as much as we love animals, we are also far from being vegetarians! I grew-up in a family of hunters and fishermen and my wife’s family has always enjoyed meat of any kind serves just about any way. My brother is still an active bow hunter and we enjoy venison when he serves it. Our oldest daughter Grace is a vegetarian and we respect her wishes to live that lifestyle. My wife goes out of the way when shopping for groceries to make sure she buys vegetarian options for Grace and when we eat as a family 3-4 times a week, we give Grace vegetarian options while the rest of us eat our meat meals. It has not been that hard to accept and make this adjustment.

I really enjoy having our pets! Lucy sits on or next to our bed at night. When I wake-up, she greets me with a wagging tail and I always have to give her a good petting or massage before I get out of bed. When I leave for work, she follows me to the garage and when I get home from work, if she is out of her crate, she greets me by the inside garage door with a big smile and wagging tail. I feed her every day and go for 15 minute to 45 minute walks every day. When we get back from our walk, I make sure she gets a handful of treats as a reward for a good walk.

Coco is our family baby. That pig gets held every day, several times a day, sometimes for a half hour at time, by my wife and Grace. Since she is technically Grace’s pet, Grace is often times reluctant to let our youngest, Eva (9), hold her by herself. As Eva gets older, Grace is learning to trust Eva more, but is till reluctant to let her hold Coco at times. My wife lays-down on our bed and lets Coco run all over the bed or lets Coco lay on top of her while she reads. She picks-up Coco and kisses her or pets her and talks to her like she is a human being. I would say something funny about this except I am the exact same way with Lucy as I pet her and talk to her like she is a human being!

There have been so many times that I have been in a bad mood and when no one is around, I talk to Lucy! She doesn’t judge me and just listens. She shows unconditional love like no human ever can. She drives me crazy like a human with her hyper personality, then pulls at my heart-strings when she lays by me and looks at me with those deep puppy-dog eyes saying “rub my belly daddy”. I can go from feeling bad to feeling good in a snap just because Lucy is around me. I can feel my heart beat slow-down, my muscles relax, the tenseness in my head go away, and I start to feel like a relaxed human being.

I have heard it said that pet owners live longer. It is no wonder many older retired people have dogs in their homes and even travel with them. Having seen personally what our pets do in our lives, I believe that there is a strong correlation between living a long life and having a pet. If you aren’t sure, go get a cuddly creature of your own and let me know how it changed your life!

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