Police work can be physically demanding. Many call it a young man's occupation because of the rigorous demands on a person's body. Keeping physically active is key to maintaining health. In her article, "The Health Benefits of Pets," Ursula Cunningham quotes the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) President Link Wellborn, "Pets are... more than just a member of the family - they are central to a healthy lifestyle." Owning a pet not only encourages an owner to get more exercise and participate in outdoor activities, but research shows it can help lower blood pressure. An AAHA survey shows 31% of respondents feel their physical fitness has improved due to exercising with their companion animal. Getting out and exercising with your family and your pet can increase quality time with two-legged loved ones as well. Playing Frisbee can be a great time for you and your kids. I found participating in social events, like walking ferrets (or being walked by ferrets) during the Ferret Agility Trials, can also increase heart rate providing aerobic benefits.
A dog is the only thing on earth that will love you more than you love yourself - Josh Billings
Unconditional love is definitely not a "given" of police work. In fact, it's quite the opposite. Pressure flows from external and internal sources. Coming home to a pet eases the negativity that comes with the territory of being a police officer. Scott explains, "Pets can be there for you in ways that people can't. They offer love and companionship, and can also enjoy comfortable silences, keep secrets and are excellent snugglers." Animals don't care about their owner's mood or physical capabilities. They just love. In my experience, I've seen a jaded, cynical police officer walk into their home, lay his eyes on his dog, and just melt. Our intense connection to our pets, often described as the Human-Animal Bond, can also explain the extreme emotion we feel when we lose a furry friend.
Pet ownership holds a number of benefits for police families, including lowering stress, increasing bonding and improving physical health. The negative side of the "givens" of police work can be decreased. Whether your preference is a cat, a dog, a horse, a snake, or a ferret, the unconditional love provided by pets, makes life happier and healthier. For everyone who loves or has loved a pet, this information probably doesn't come as a surprise. If you can't own a pet, you can always volunteer at a shelter. As for filling my emptiness, I now have Marilyn and Gambit, two fat, furry bundles wrecking havoc in my home and my heart.