You may have read my recent blog post about my bone bruise and inability to run the Baltimore Marathon thinking I really had it together. I sounded positive, upbeat and ready to tackle my injury.
Unfortunately, a full week in a walking boot has the power to crush spirits, mine included. Sure, I did those seated cardio arm workouts, but usually late in the day after putting them off all morning. I only lasted a few days with the ginger turmeric smoothies (they do not go down pleasantly). I spent the beginning of the week in foot purgatory, looking at the fall weather outside my window and wishing I could be running in it.
For the latter half of the week, I grudgingly hobbled down from my third-floor apartment to let my dog out while my fiance was on a business trip for three days, leaving his semi-disabled lady and exercise-loving dog behind.
It was just me and Harley.
When I got really down, though, I looked over at Harley’s peaceful face. Missing out on his long walks for three days couldn’t make his content look disappear.
Even though I couldn’t give him his walks, hikes or runs, he still followed me each time I went to a different room in the apartment; he still started panting because he was excited and happy for seemingly no reason at all; he still stood next to me for head and butt rubs.
As I pet away my strong feelings of sadness, I felt a glimmer of happiness return with each stroke of his soft head. After five minutes, I was actually smiling. He was the only thing that made me smile that week.
According to WebMD, pets have numerous health benefits for people. After just five minutes with an animal, people have decreased cortisol levels (the stress hormone) and increased serotonin levels (the happy hormone). Pets help fight depression because a pet will listen forever, love you unconditionally, and allow you to care for it.
Pet owners have decreased blood pressure levels compared to non-pet owners; blood pressure drops when petting an animal.
Pets also help you establish a routine, so you can’t just sit in bed all day feeling sorry for yourself; your pet needs you! If it wasn’t for Harley, I would’ve barely moved from my laptop screen that week. I knew he was bored, so I wanted to at least take him outside as much as possible, even if we couldn’t go far.
Other health benefits — for those of you not in a walking boot — include increased activity levels and more social interaction. This is because pets need exercise, and oftentimes that exercise includes passing neighbors on a walk or meeting new people at a park.
So next time you’re upset or stressed, just pet your dog. They love the touch and attention just as much as you do!