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Mind Matters: People & Pets

07 April 2018  

Dr. Elaine answers questions about love between people and their pets.

Addictions, phobias, depression, self-esteem - they are all Mind Matters. But, how does one break through and find success?

In this new column, Dr. Elaine Kissel answers your questions; helping to provide understanding and insight into a variety of topics, such as addictions, self-improvement, depression and much more. You can send in your questions to

Q. Do you think people who have many pets like 5 dogs and 5 cats have a need to be loved by their animals. Should they not find love with humans?

A . If you ask someone who brings an animal into their home if they need to be loved by that pet, I doubt they would deny wishing for love in return for their caring. I imagine its expected.

In answer to your second question, a should or should not answer is not fair as it requires a generalized judgment. Saying what a person should do suggests an assumption of their needs or what is right for them. I would never generalize; getting to know the person's reasons for choosing pets for company rather than humans would be the most important and appropriate approach. I would of course respect their choice without judgement or criticism. And if they want, or express a need for loving human connections but are unable to achieve that for whatever reasons, and reached out to me to help, I would guide them to fulfill their needs in the best ways for them. Although I would never suggest they give up their beloved pets in exchange for human relationships.

There is as plenty of science and human experience to prove that love between humans and pets is mutual. Indeed animals show affection, they establish a bond and even an attachment to their owners, this is sensed as love. They are also faithful and regardless, whereas humans are often not. They are loyal unassuming companions. Although they may assume that you are there to feed and care for them based on experience. Many true life stories have been published that describe how dogs grieve, even sit tirelessly at grave sights of their deceased owners.

Finding requited love, sadly for some seems impossible. Human relationships can be complicated and too difficult or even painful and disappointing for some people. So they turn to animals to fill emotional and other needs. Pet owners usually want to give love as much as receive it. Animals give unconditional love and affection, something all too many people feel the lack of in their human relationships. And if a person has not found or has lost the love of humans, pets are naturally a comfort. Indeed animals are warm, cuddly company for the lonely. Many pets are also guard dogs and others aid humans in many respects, even supporting the sick and have been known to awaken sleeping owners when a fire is burning in the home, saving lives. Thats' love and loyalty demonstrated for sure. Dogs have even detected and warned their owners of cancer and other life threatening illnesses. So they serve their masters with well demonstrated love. Why would a person not want such a mutually loving relationship? And more pets would certainly increase the emotional satisfaction for a person in need of it.

Also note, there are countless people who do have several dogs and cats who also have satisfying human relationships and share their homes with humans well as animals.

Some people take in cats and dogs to foster while awaiting new permanent homes for them. Others are animal rescuers and would rather be a life long caregiver than to see animals suffer neglect or abuse by human hands. It is well demonstrated that those animals show love in return, and that is always appreciated.

The love and caring of animals is a human trait that is a blessing for all those creatures large and small who would otherwise be subject to human and natures cruelness.

Q. There are lots of people in today's world that have "service animals". They say they can't go anywhere without their companion. What has happened in our world over the past 40 years to people need an animal with them at all times?

A. Let's face it, in the world of today there are so many threats to safety and well being, so anything that feels comforting is welcome. Something that symbolizes or offers a sense of protection is appreciated. Remember when you were little, a cuddly teddy bear was most often under your arm most of the day and in your arms at night? A security blanket is often what a pet provides.

The actual needs for service animals are varied. Some need the animal for a sense of emotional or even physical security, many because they have been victims of assault or other crimes. Some have phobias about being among people in public crowded places, so pets provide a sense of comfort that comes from a warm living being close by. Others need dogs to guide them as they go about the world, such as the deaf and blind. Animals don't criticize or complain, well, not often anyway. They are protective and unlike all too many humans they freely express affection and compassion without any assumptions of right and wrong. At times pet owners hate to leave their dogs at home if the pet is anxious. In fact many animals suffer a lot of the same distressing emotional conditions people do.

I have worked with many people whose only life support system has been their pets. Their dog or cat is in service to them 24 hours a day in myriad ways and wherever they go. One gentleman client had a parrot who spoke when spoken to and actually expressed sadness when the man's wife died, and would stay on his shoulder as long as he was needed, stroking his face with its beak. Saying the words, “It's okay, okay,” now and then.

I do agree though that some people take unfair advantage of the new rules for service dogs and other pets being allowed on airplanes and restaurants. However, is that not true of all social rules and regulations?

One other point that needs to be made: A person who is dependent on an animal being with them wherever they go may need professional help for develop a sense of well being and security within, so the animal is not needed as a constant companion. I have aided many people to achieve their emotional independence.