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Pets make the perfect companions

Source: Jamaica Gleaner-
The joy of having a furry, four-legged family member, or some other pet at home, is an experience which many families can relate to. A pet provides a myriad of benefits that produce a positive impact on one’s emotional and psychological well-being, which improves quality of life.
Like humans, pets have feelings and emotions. They become heartbroken when you leave home, and literally ‘put on a dancing show’ when you return. Observing their romping, attempts at hide and seek, and teaching them tricks is an excellent stress reliever. Besides, they are devoted companions, particularly to the sick, elderly, children and those who live alone.
Moreover, those who own a pet, particularly a dog, will experience good cardiovascular health, according to a study conducted by Mayo Clinic cardiologist Dr Francisco Lopez-Jimenez.
Beyond the therapeutic benefits that pets provide, dogs, especially, are known to have a powerful sense of smell that enable them to detect when things are out of the norm.
Dyhann Buddoo-Fletcher, a St Catherine resident, readily identifies with this characteristic in her son’s dog, Roxy, a ridgeback mixed breed, who has been a part of their household for the past three years.
“She’s the smartest dog I know. She senses our emotions quickly and adjusts accordingly,” she said.
Sometime last year, Buddoo-Fletcher was feeling sick at home. Roxy’s heroic actions changed the narrative of what could have turned out to be an unfortunate situation.
“Roxy came and I rubbed her head and she laid in my lap. A few moments later, I thought I felt better enough to go on the road to do some business. I left the house and closed the door. I was a few metres from home when I checked my rear-view mirror, Roxy was racing down the road to catch up with me. She had jumped through an open window.”
“I stopped and opened my car door. She immediately jumped right on my lap and would not move. I turned around, and as I entered the house, I literally fainted on the couch,” she pointed out.
To chase after someone was something out of the ordinary for Roxy. She had never done it before.
“I think Roxy saved my life that day. She knew I was really sick and shouldn’t have left the house,” she reflected.
Eutis Mairs, a human resources professional at JN General Insurance Company, also relates a similar experience. Her Shih Tzu poodle, Saphire, was able to detect an issue in her right leg some two months before she began to experience symptoms.
“My dog kept sniffing and licking my ankle to the point of annoyance. I began to sense she was picking up something; however, I was hesitant to go to the doctor, because I didn’t have any symptoms,” said Mairs, who owns seven dogs.
Subsequently, she started feeling a pain in her leg. An MRI scan was done; however, it did not reveal the cause of the problem. Her doctor suspected that the issue could have been with her sciatic nerve. Following a course of medication, the discomfort went away and Saphire never sniffed or licked her leg again.
“In the end, I hugged and thanked her, because she was saying something to me and I wasn’t aware of what it was.”
Kim Cooper, manager of Montego Bay Animal Haven, a shelter for stray, abused and abandoned dogs, says that dogs have the innate ability to detect when someone is unwell, based on subtle changes in the person’s body odour.
“If you have a good bond with your canine, the dog will be able to pick up on a certain smell that your body exudes,” she explained.
She said that having a dog at home is beneficial in other ways.
“They love you unconditionally. They are forgiving, no matter how you treat them. They always love you back. The better you treat them, is the better they treat you,” she relates.
More than the emotional support which dogs provide, Cooper maintains that because they are territorial, they provide excellent protection.
“They will protect your yard and alert you. It is a natural instinct for them. There is no better ‘alarm’ than a dog.”
Cooper estimates that a significant number of households in Jamaica have a pet, although some pets are kept under less-than-desirable conditions.
She also pointed out that animal shelters in the United States of America have seen a sharp increase in the number of pets being adopted since the COVID-19 pandemic.
“People are at home, they are lonely, and they need that emotional support,” she explained.
 Cooper said that she wished she could see a similar response to the adoption of animals in Jamaica.
“We have more than 200 dogs available at the Montego Bay Animal Haven for adoption,” she said.