Dogs (and cats!) can be a military spouse’s best friends. Not only can a pet help lower feelings of stress but they can also be a good workout buddy during a deployment and ease the loneliness of military life.
“It is always a comfort to have them around, especially at night when I’m alone,” says Lauren Enderlein, Army spouse, about her two dogs, Max and Haven. “It’s just nice to have some sort of presence in the house other than myself. They are there in the morning when I wake up, when I come home for lunch, when I come home from work, and are always happy to see me.”
Want to know more about how your dog or cat is helping you?
1 | Keep you healthy
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), pets can decrease your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, triglyceride levels, and feelings of loneliness. Studies have also found that pet owners experience lower levels of perceived stress than non-pet owners.
Simply petting a dog or cat has been shown to bring emotional and physical benefits, says Arden Moore, The Pawsitive Coach, who is a dog and cat behavior consultant and author of numerous pet books. Unconditional love, a kiss or a purr, and their nonjudgmental nature are all ways pets help their owners get through a hard time.
How YUKON Helps His Military Family: “Our dog is not a big cuddler but he loves to be petted and, when I’m stressed, I love to sit on the stairs where he lays and just stroke his head and back and belly,” says Stephanie Desormeaux, an Army spouse and pet parent to Yukon, a seventy pound ex-racing greyhound. “He is a very sweet and gentle dog. (He) helps me to take a deep breath and remember my priorities.”
2 | Get you moving
Pets are great at telling their owners it is time to get outside! A walk in the park or rope pulling in the backyard can easily burn off a bad day.
“I have found that dogs are better workout buddies than people because they are always ready when you pick up the leash and they never come up with lame excuses as to why they can’t join you in a workout,” says Arden. “When you are walking or running with your leashed dog, you are giving your mind and body a good workout.”
How DIXIE Helps My Military Family: Our Jack Russell Terrier is my running partner! On the days that I don’t feel like heading out the door to exercise, she can be the extra encouragement that I need to hit the pavement. A good run gives me a chance to regroup and focus my thoughts.
3 | Be a buddy
Often the only friend that comes with you on a move is your dog or cat. They may also be the last friend you or your child talks to at the end of a night during a deployment.
“Pets, in general, are reliable friends,” says Michelle Yue, a Certified Professional Dog Trainer and behavior consultant, who owns Good Dog DC, LLC, a dog training company in the Washington, D.C. area. “The consistency of having your loving pet greet you when you walk in the door can make even a new environment feel like home.”
Yukon was particularly comforting for his family when they first moved from New York to Alaska. Stephanie would often find her son on the floor, nose-to-nose with the dog when they made the move and during the coldest part of the winter.
“He often talks to the dog but it is so low and quiet,” says Stephanie. “I figure he needs that time to sort his own thoughts.”
The love and loyalty of family pet can bring consistency for military children as they become familiar with a new home or while a service member parent is gone. Dogs and cats can also be great listeners for both a spouse and child during difficult times.
How MAX helped his military family: Max, the loyal cat of the Crispino family, watched over their oldest child while he feel asleep during dad’s deployment then made his way downstairs to spend the rest of the evening with mom. What a great deployment buddy!
4 | Keep you connected
Making friends when you’re new to town can be hard but pets can be a way to get you out of the house and into the world.
“Dogs can help to provide a ‘social bridge’ in a new neighborhood. A lot of people will say ‘hi’ to a dog who wouldn’t say ‘hi’ to a stranger,” says Yue.
She points to obedience classes, dog camp, and doggy fitness or yoga as ways a pet can help a military spouse connect with other people in the area.
“These are classes for your dog but people get huge rewards out of these activities as well,” says Yue.
How MAX and HAVEN help their service member parent: Pets can be a happy connection to home. During her husband’s deployment, Lauren would send pictures of the dogs or even put them on Skype. She would share funny stories and situations they got into. Her husband enjoyed hearing about his dogs while he was gone.
Remember! While pet parenting has great benefits it’s important to understand the challenges dogs and cats can bring to a military family when it is time to move or when a spouse is deployed. Adopting a dog or cat is a long-term commitment. Think about what type of life you’ll be able to provide for any pet before thinking about what he can do for you.
How have your pets helped you as a military spouse? We’d love to hear on our Facebook! >>