When you relate to the world around you, particularly to pets, there is an expansion of the self – a rising above the ego caged within you. Taking care of the pets is like taking care of yourself – bringing about a happiness within you. Pet lovers will vouch for that like children, pets make the world a better place.
The Nagarajans for instance, are a classic example of several generations of a family being exposed to pets. Meena Nagarajan the grandmother, just likes to have dogs around her, daughter Chittu (a lawyer) loves them passionately and the two pre-teen grandsons cannot think of a life without dogs.
Children are naturally inclined towards pets and animals, particularly single children. If you do your part by keeping a pet, and encourage children to take care of it, you will be inculcating in them a sense of responsibility, and an attitude of care and concern. The benefits of having pets are outlined below.
Pets relieve mental stress. Take the case of Asha Kumar, the mother of two boys 14 and 8 years old, who lives with her mother-in-law. She was often stressed out, having to manage varying temperaments along with the responsibility of shouldering the entire household. Asha wore a forlorn look about her and the few conversations she had with her friends were always filled with self-pity.
Her younger son had always wanted a dog as a pet. One day, her husband decided to surprise their son and brought home a Labrador pup. Asha’s friends immediately assumed that she was going to be overburdened with additional work. No one in the family had ever raised dogs before or even knew what it entailed.
Instead, Asha’s tone now has a vibrant ring when she talks to her friends, despite the additional work of feeding a perennially hungry dog, toilet training it, ensuring that it does not chew up shoes and having to frequently visit the vet. Suddenly the mother-in-law and other travails are hardly in the picture, and the dog has almost entirely replaced them in her conversation!
Calming cranky children
Sruti Ramakrishnan is 6 years old. Sometimes the regimen of a full-day of school, coupled with an empty stomach makes her weepy and cranky. Even simple requests by the parents, such as asking her to eat something or drink water can bring about a tantrum.
A couple of stray cats regularly visit the house. Though they are not allowed inside, Sruti’s mother feeds them milk.
When the cats come by, even if Sruti is throwing tantrums, her mood always changes for the better. She tickles them with leaves and plays ball with them. She pulls at their tails while they drink their milk (when she thinks no one is watching her), and calls them endearing names. Handling Sruti has become that much easier.
Pets for the empty nest syndrome
Chitralekha Arumugam’s husband was a pilot who constantly travelled to different parts of the world and her children also left home to pursue their higher studies. At home, Lekha set up an aquarium and brought home a dog. “The fish and dog helped me get over my loneliness,” she says. Watching the fish kept her calm, while the dog ensured that she never felt lonely.
After retirement, her husband settled down for good. Initially, he was not attached to the pets. But over the years he grew attached to the dog. He took the dog for walks, fed it and took good care of it. “Dogs can change one’s attitude too,” feels Lekha.
People who are initially indifferent towards pets, get to bond with them over time. The pet grows on them.
For the emotionally disturbed
Dr N Rangarajan is a psychiatrist who loves pets and feels that they can provide a sense of comfort during distress. “Anybody emotionally disturbed needs therapy (distinct from treatment) and pets can definitely provide that”, he says.
A lot of patients who come for counselling and the psychiatrists themselves, benefit from this ‘therapy’ and become more stable.
CK Ranganathan, the founder of Cavinkare has been an animal lover all his life. Apart from birds, he keeps dogs, fish, cows and monkeys. “As a child, having pets at home brought me tremendous focus (although I was defocused from studies!), passion and ownership, coupled with a huge sense of responsibility.
I used to skip family holidays and movies because I used to make their cages and clean them up. It was extremely relaxing and I learnt a lot from it. I never delegated this task to anyone,” he says.
“Having them at home makes me feel rejuvenated every day; I am ready to start work,” he says.
Malavika Lakshman is a freelance writer-cum-editor interested in culture and heritage.