The Healing Power of A Pet


Those of us who are pet owners know how wonderful they are. We brag on them, dote on them, etc.  Those of us, who are also parents, may even distinguish between our children as “those with fur” and “those without”. Our pets live with us, play with us and travel with us. They comfort — even mourn — with us. They are a member of our family and we love them. But did you know that these adorable pets … with their soulful eyes … precocious personalities … cunning wit … and slobbery kisses … actually have the ability to heal?

The U.S. Dog Registry divides dogs (of any breed) into three categories:

  • Service Dogs help with a function/s for a person with a disability, i.e. Blind, Deaf, PTSD, MS, etc.
  • Emotional Support Dogs help people with emotional problems by providing support and comfort, i.e. Anxiety, Depression and Mood Disorders.
  • Therapy Dogs provide affection and comfort to people in hospitals, nursing homes and assisted living centers. They are often sent, in the wake of horrific events, i.e. the recent mass shooting in Parkland, FL.

But what they all accomplish is that they make a positive impact on the people that they interact with. These pets improve the lives of every human that they touch.

Children with Autism were significantly more engaged, when animal therapy was incorporated into their sessions instead of using the standard approach. The children used more language. They exhibited more social interaction. All positive. All heathful.

Cancer patients have improved from pet therapy, also known as Animal-assisted Therapy or AAT. A session of animal interaction, lasting between 5-15 minutes, provides a welcomed distraction from difficult treatments like chemotherapy and radiation. It brightens their day, lifts their spirits and offers a myriad of benefits overall. In fact, AAT has proven to be so effective time and again for many illnesses that the medical community is embracing the idea more than ever before — regularly including it in patient care.

Seniors, who often live alone, also benefit from owning a pet. A pet can provide mental stimulation, erase loneliness, give them a reason to walk around the block and a companion to do it with. Pet interaction has the ability to lessen, even diminish, overall pain. And many seniors live with chronic illnesses that cause a lot of discomfort.

When we are bonding with a pet, we are in the company of a dear friend — a confidante. As a result, our blood pressure lowers … muscles relax … stress fades. On the chemical level, a pet decreases cortisol in our blood. It can raise levels of the brain chemical dopamine that makes us feel good. We are happier and more positive. And when we reach out … touching their fur … rubbing their back … talking to them … we experience an increase of immunoglobulin A. That antibody boosts our immune system. Hormones like serotonin, oxytocin and prolactin are released, when we are rubbing that fuzzy belly or rolling a tennis ball across the floor. Our mood is lighter. We’re smiling … laughing … enjoying life.

Have you hugged your pet, today? Have you felt the nuzzle of a cold nose against your cheek? Or was it soft purring? We all should be so lucky. That furry companion, who greets us at the door, is actually good for us!



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* Photo by the author

Clarity In The Garden …


There are few things that represent clarity better than water. Whether you are admiring a waterfall, a fountain, a koi pond, or the massive ocean, there is something clear … almost pristine … about it. You might even wonder how it can look that way … beautiful, refreshing, sustaining.

God gave nature ecosystems to filtrate its water. If you own a garden pond or fountain, you probably have a filtration system operating to maintain it — freeing the water of muck and algae. He also gave our bodies a good filtration system to eliminate cellular wastes and fluids. That system comes in the form of a pair of organs known as kidneys. But when Chronic Kidney Disease strikes, it can make that filtration very difficult.

CKD, or Chronic Kidney Failure as it is also known, is the gradual loss of kidney functioning. When it reaches an advanced stage, dangerous levels of wastes and fluid build-up in the body. Progression of CKD can lead to End-Stage Kidney Failure which requires regular dialysis or a kidney transplant to sustain life.

Chronic Kidney Disease has a variety of symptoms that may include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Sleep Problems
  • Changes In Urination
  • Decreased Mental Sharpness
  • Muscle Cramps
  • Swelling in the feet & ankles
  • Itchy Skin
  • Chest Pain
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Hypertension

Since many of these symptoms can be associated with other medical conditions, it is important to see your doctor if you are experiencing them. A diagnosis usually involves examining family history; the medications a patient may be taking; blood tests; urine tests; Imaging tests; and possibly a kidney biopsy. If Chronic Kidney Disease is present, treatment is based upon the stage that the CKD is in.

Since CKD is a Chronic illness, it’s not leaving. So a patient’s response becomes very pivotal to how the disease progresses. There was life before CKD and now there must be life with it. Lifestyle modifications have shown significant improvement in many CKD patients. Through diet alone, one study showed that patients with CKD reduced their risk of death by 68%! Cigarette smoking, exercise and body mass also play a role. Those CKD patients who do not smoke show a slower progression of the disease. They also have a reduced risk of heart attacks and death. Regular exercise was also associated with a reduced risk of death.

The DASH diet has been approved by many health organizations including the National Kidney Foundation. If you have been diagnosed with CKD and need to lose some weight, it is an excellent option. Studies have already shown that the DASH diet helps to decrease hypertension; lowers a patient’s risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer; as well as reducing the formation of kidney stones. If you have any questions, discuss it with your doctor or contact the National Kidney Foundation.

The DASH diet is simple. It is rich in fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, whole grains, fish, poultry, beans, seeds and nuts. The diet encourages less salt/sodium intake. And it limits sugars/sweets. This isn’t a crash diet, or a fad diet. This is about eating healthier and living better as a result.

Exercise can play a positive role, in the lives of CKD patients. Yet, some choose to avoid it. Hopefully, if you’ve been diagnosed with Chronic Kidney Disease, you will talk to your doctor about exercise options that can keep you on the move. Aerobic exercise has been shown to increase oxygen consumption, in some patients. There is also evidence that aerobics can improve hypertension, lipid profiles and overall mental health. If you just can’t visualize yourself in an aerobics class, then consider another low-impact option. There are many low-impact exercises that provide beneficial results: Golf, Swimming, Water Aerobics, Walking, Elliptical machines, Kayaking, Hiking, Yoga, etc. The important thing is that you find one that you like and get moving.

Life with Chronic Kidney Disease isn’t easy, but it is possible. What matters most is the kind of gardener that you are. Think about that, for a moment. If you ever seen an unkept garden, you know that it is steadily taken over, i.e. weeds, pests, etc. There is no control. A conscientious gardener stays vigilant … takes the actions that need to be taken, maintains a level of control. As a result, they have a beautiful garden. Our lives are gardens, too. How we live … thrive … and enjoy life … depends upon the kind of garden that we choose to keep!

                         “I Can Do All Things Through Christ Which Strengthens Me.”

 — Philippians 4:13 (KJV)


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* Photo by Jeffrey Workman on Upsplash


Choose Joy …

It’s funny how little things can emotionally move you. When I was very young, my mother took me on a trip to the local garden center. She said that a Dutch girl (such as myself) needed to start appreciating Dutch flowers. We picked out various bulbs — Tulip, Crocus and Hyacinth. Then, we went home to plant them. It was my first real hands-on experience, with gardening — filled with ancestry, excitement, dirt, anticipation, and beautiful results. In the decades long since, I’ve always had and admired Dutch flowers. Whenever I see them in bloom, no matter where it is, I have to pause to just look at them. And I always smile. It gives me joy.

Recently, I was doing some updates around the house. I wasn’t really looking for a wall plaque, but it found me. It was simple, in design — a bit rustic — painted with wildflowers and butterflies. Yet, its message leaped out at me: “Let it go … Choose joy”. Like those Dutch flowers, it made me smile. It literally uplifted me, if only for a few moments. Need I say, I bought the plaque? And I hung it where it can be seen, first thing, every day. I did this as a reminder to myself to choose joy — to live as happily as I can. And to let go of the negative.


Faith teaches us that joy is an emotion and a “fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22-23). That it is a matter of habit and virtue. And that it can be commanded. I’ve never professed to being a Divinity major. My walk in faith is purely based on my experiences in life. But in my humble opinion, God didn’t place us on Earth to be miserable. Scripture teaches us that “A joyful heart is good medicine …” (Proverbs 17:22). Remarkably, there are actually scientific studies to support this.

When we are happy, or joyful, our hearts are healthier. Our stress is lessened. Aches and pains diminish. Our immune systems grow stronger. And our lives are lengthened. Think about that, for a moment.

Psychology teaches us that happiness and joy aren’t exactly the same. Happiness is a vague emotion. It means different things to different people. And that it’s temporary, in duration. Yet, all agree that it is positive. Joy is also positive — possibly more powerful. But Joy, they contend, is like a belief. It is with us, for the long haul. Even when life becomes difficult, joy can find a way to comfort and uplift us.

There are ways to feel more joy and happiness, in your daily life:

  •  Choose to smile. You can make a conscious decision, each day, to have a good day.
  • Try Prayer or Meditation. It soothes the mind and soul. Relieves stress. Comforts.
  • Practice Positive Thinking. Acknowledge the simple things that bring you joy.
  • Be Grateful. Often times, joy/happiness is increased by recognizing the people & things that we already have.
  • Be More Active. Random acts of kindness don’t require Olympic training. Yet, they are fulfilling and inspiring. Try volunteering for a cause you believe in. You will feel joy, as a result of your involvement.

Society often times bombards us with negative things. But each of us has the power to choose. We don’t have to accept every negative that surrounds us. We can learn to let go and choose joy!


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* Photo by Aaron Burden on Upsplash.