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Puppy Love: Five Ways Emotional Support Animals Show Their Love

Posted by on Feb 13, 2015 in Positive Steps | 0 comments

by Jessica Richards, MA, RMHCI

 

The strength of the human-animal bond has been recognized for a long time, but exactly how the relationship benefits our mental health is still somewhat of a mystery.

Sometimes I am asked, “How can an animal—or more specifically, a dog—be an emotional support for a human?” With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, I thought I’d share the many ways dogs can share and express what we’ve come to understand as “love.”

1. Affection

If you are feeling lonely, isolated, sad, anxious, worried, scared, depressed— or really any other negative emotion— the affection of an animal will undoubtedly impact your life in a positive way!

There’s no doubt, dogs and cats serving in the role of Emotional Support Animals, can be incredibly affectionate creatures. They love to share their emotion with us, and they express it in different types of ways…such as, licking your face! If you allow them to do so, they will express their love wholeheartedly.

Often times, they will lick you in an attempt to groom you. This expression of love is how they show intimacy. It’s how they express love and care for each other in the wild, and if you don’t mind a “walk on the wild side” from time to time, they’re very happy to share it with you!

Other forms of affection are when an animal jumps on you or leans on you. This can be their way of saying, “Hey! I’m here for you!” If there is ever a time you forget, they will be there to remind you that you are not alone — that they still love you.

2. Attachment

Sometimes our relationships with family, friends, or significant others can be somewhat complicated, stressful, or tense, and this can lead to feeling lonely or depressed, angry or anxious. But relationships with a dog are never complicated. Your little (or large) animal friend will be there to share their love and to support you.

Dogs sometimes express their love and concern for you by following in your footsteps. Sometimes it’s as if they are our shadow. They want to make sure that you are not leaving them behind, and that, if you go somewhere, they will be right there, by your side, helping you through whatever you experience.

No human-to-human relationship will ever be quite like the one you will experience with an animal. This is why the attachment between humans and animals is such an important aspect of our overall mental health and well-being.

Just take a look at this article from Psychology Today on human-animal attachment theory:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201202/how-emotionally-attached-are-you-your-pet

3. Happiness

Dogs express happiness in their own ways. If you ever leave the house for an extended amount of time, guess who will be there waiting patiently for your arrival? And who will greet you at the door? Yep! Your dog will love that you are home and will want to show you that they missed you. They will want to see how you are doing and check in with you. They might sniff you all over as if they are “checking you out.” With the sense of smell being so important to a dog, it may just be that they learn much of what they need to know about your mood and your day just from your scent!

We receive our dogs’ love and feel happiness from the “happy hormone,” Oxycontin. Studies have shown that merely seeing our pets stimulates our bodies to produce higher levels of Oxycontin than when we can’t see them. Imagine how high our Oxycontin levels might get when we are interacting with an animal! Think about it. With no other intervention at all, Oxycontin can help ease any depression or anxiety that you may be feeling.

4. Companionship

Defined as “fellowship” or “friendship”, dogs love to be our friends! Someone suffering from depression may feel isolated and alone, but this is where an Emotional Support Animal can bring relief! With an Emotional Support Animal, such as a dog, you will never be alone, and you will always be loved!

Animals love to be loyal to their human friends and will commit to making you happy as if it we’re their job in life! They will never give up on providing you with comfort, support, and companionship for as long as they live.

5. Unconditional Love

Animals offer an unconditional love that can be very helpful and healing to those who are suffering. Studies have shown that animals can help relieve depression, increase happiness, reduce tension, and improve a person’s mood overall. Accompanied by appropriate counseling, an Emotional Support Animal such as a dog or cat can help people with mild to moderate depression feel better. It’s proven!

So the amount of love provided to us from our furry friends can present endless benefits to our emotional and mental health. If you are experiencing sadness, anxiety, ADD/ADHD, low self-esteem, complicated relationships, or high levels of stress, an Emotional Support Animal may be just the answer!

 

Jessica Richards is a Registered Mental Health Intern with Positive Steps Counseling. She is a local authority on Emotional Support Animals and sometimes shares her counseling office with her therapy dog, Koda. If you have questions about whether an Emotional Support Animal could be right for you, contact Jessica at jessica@positivestepscounseling.com; or call her at 407-699-5824.

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