Years ago I had the great pleasure of speaking with a woman who survived breast cancer. She not only survived, she thrived. Susan attributes her peaceful state and the ability to thrive in a scary situation to a bear. That’s right. A bear. Susan’s large, grassy yard was surrounded by woods. This female bear took to spending time on Susan’s property and over months they became acquainted. One day while Susan was on the porch, and the bear about 20 feet away from her on the lawn, a large male bear appeared out of the forested area. The female bear turned to Susan and they both got up and growled at the same time! The male bear took off running. Susan never laughed so much in her life. The female bear later gave birth, introduced her babies to Susan, and as the story goes lived happily after that as a family. Now we may not all love bears, but we do love cats, dogs, horses, birds, fish, ferrets, gerbils, and more. What is the connection? What is the great gift these animals offer us? We forget that these companions are kindred souls clothed in fur, feathers, scales and more. Similarities abound between humans and all other species. Most are not loners, though some are. The majority of companion animals desire love, affection, and interaction with others. They too will have “pets”. I worked with a racehorse that had been passed around from one owner to another because of poor performance. I introduced the horse to a goat and he nuzzled it right away. The goat ended up sleeping in the stall, walking and playing with the horse outside; they became best friends. Within the first day the horse’s performance dramatically improved on workouts and continued to improve weekly.

We’ve all read the stories about dogs that never bark suddenly yelping to save the lives of those they care about. We’ve heard how cats that would normally run away from fire instead climb on the bed and yowl until the folks awaken, only running away after they’re assured that the humans understand the danger. Surviving any tough times in life depends on a variety of factors. The gifts pets offer us to improve our quality of life are numerous; here are three: The power of love. Caring about someone, like a companion animal, helps humans “stay in the game”. Caring for others, including animals, can help bring a person out of dark times with the simple light of love. Studies show that petting any companion animal may lower abnormally high blood pressure and slow the pulse and heartbeat when too rapid. (It does not seem to affect normal blood pressure or heartbeat.) Many companion animals will nurse us through difficult times by offering comfort. Even the tiniest companion animal can be strong for someone else’s benefit. A two pound dog resting peacefully in the arms of a very needy, ill person, looking up at them as if no one else matters—how powerful is that? A companion animal that is bonded to a child or an adult has been known to risk its life to save theirs. How important to our survival is that?! Companion animals help kids learn responsibility. Having children learn the responsibility of feeding, walking, and grooming a pet can bring out a previously hidden strength in children. Knowing they are capable gives children a sense of accomplishment and self-respect and that can open doors for them in times of need.

Animals don’t discount their instincts. This “knowing” helps keep them safe. A companion animal may be able to warn us of oncoming danger. Here are two accounts people have shared with me of how pets helped save their owners’ lives.

I met Vinnie, a Vietnam veteran with PTSD, several years ago. He told me that he owes his life to two stray dogs. The dogs adopted Vinnie and he adopted them. Vinnie brought the dogs home, fed them, pet them, and in general hung out with them. He felt a bit less terrified with these friends at his side. One day Vinnie was attacked and left for dead. The two dogs not only stayed by his side, they brought him food, slept on either side of him, and when he would pass out, they would lick his face and nudge him to wake up. With tears in his eyes, Vinnie said that these two dogs not only kept him alive, but they kept him safe and wanting to live.

The second story was told to me while I was in the green room at an NBC studio waiting to go on a show. A man sat with a beautiful Rotweiler and told me his story. As a fireman, this man one day saved the life of another fireman. This friend gifted him with a female Rotweiler as a thank you. He already had a male Rotweiler. On his days off he would take the dogs hiking in the California hills. One day, half-way up the mountain the female sat and refused to go further. Thinking she had a problem, the man turned around and headed back to the car and drove home. Upon entering the house he had a coronary and collapsed. The female got the cordless phone and brought it to his face. He was able to dial 911—the EMTs came. The dogs kept him awake by licking his face and pushing his body. The dogs, wanting to protect him, refused to leave his side. They wouldn’t let the paramedics take him until he gave them the command to let these people near him. They saved his life. Taking care of a companion animal can have great benefits. Animals support our needs far more than we ever imagine. Animals may need rescuing from abuse or other situations, but many times they rescue us. Our best friends’ souls are clothed in a variety of beautiful outer garments, different from ours, yet their hearts are filled with love, compassion, and kindness. By Nancy Orlen Weber, R.N. If you’d like to read more about Nancy’s work, visit her website You’ll Replace more stories of healing, animal news, information on holistic pet care, as well as literature on her work. To read more on how you can prepare for your pet click the links below: Pet Preparedness Decal, Kits, and Tips Emergency Plan for Pets Emergency Preparedness Tip for Pet Food From Dawn: Pet Preparedness

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