He swaggers over and looks at me with those big brown eyes and without having to say a word he knows. So, he gently nuzzles his head into my lap and as I lay there stoking his fur, the emotions start to slowly drift away. Before I know it, I’m bent over, foreheads touching, kissing his nose. “It’s going to be okay buddy,” I say out loud. “He misses you too. But he’ll be home soon. So don’t you worry bud, he’s coming home.” And all of a sudden, I’m smiling.
Pets can be great companions for military spouses. As a mother of a pup, I know firsthand the positive effects they have on our overall wellbeing. A trusty side-kick through one PCS move and multiple long-term separations, my dog has become my greatest health investment. Here are five reasons why:
Ensures Exercise – The most obvious health benefit is exercise. Research shows a simple walk can help strengthen your heart, reduce blood sugar, and even improve mood. As a way to help overcome the separation blues, my pup and I explored a new trail together every Sunday. Not only was this great exercise, but also a fantastic way to get to know the area.
Improves Mood – Numerous dogs have helped service members at Walter Reed Army Medical Center overcome post-traumatic stress disorder or other war-related injuries because of their proven ability to reduce stress and improve mood. The same logic can be applied to military spouses enduring hardships. During my husband’s last assignment, my dog helped me overcome the toughest days by taking away feelings of anxiety, frustration, and loneliness with his unconditional love, unbridled exuberance, and extreme joy.
Provides Purpose – “A purpose of life is to expand the boundaries of our love, to widen the circle of our concern, to open up rather than shut down, and to expand rather than contract,” said Arianna Huffington, author of Thrive. As a young woman without children, a dog takes the focus away from me. He provides something to look after, care for, and love while my spouse is gone.
Initiates Friendship – A Canadian study showed that pet owners are more likely to strike up a conversation with strangers on a walk or run, which encourages social engagement. While we were temporarily stationed in Georgia, I had a hard time meeting people. Once we got a puppy, I started making friends on random walks and at the dog park. In addition, some of my husband’s classmates had puppies too. Soon we found ourselves scheduling meets-ups so our dogs could play together! As a result, I met some of my best friends at that duty station.
Stimulates Contact – During our first deployment separation, I was shocked by how much I longed for my husband to give me a kiss on the cheek or hug after work. I later found out that lack of affectionate physical contact can increase your stress hormones and even cause inflammation. Ain’t nobody got time for that! So while I still yearn for my husband’s affection, I now have a pup willing to give a kiss in exchange for a belly rub or fill in as a much needed cuddle buddy.
Bottom line is that a pet is a big investment, both time and money. But, if you’re looking for support as you try to navigate military life, a loyal companion may be the exact prescription needed. Personally, being a pet owner has enriched my life in countless ways, making each moment with my pup truly priceless.
Do you have pets that make you happy? Tell us about them!