Blakely Jameson, the daughter of Dr. Perry Jameson, hugs the family cat Ollie with Big Winky nearby
As an adult, Thanksgiving has become my (Perry Jameson) favorite holiday. No agenda other than eating, spending time with those we love and reflecting on what we are thankful for. Having to euthanize my own cat, Big Winky, two weeks ago has made me more reflective and thankful for my pets.
Being a veterinarian, I have had multiple pets over the five decades of my life. My first pet was Boots the cat, named that because she was all black with white feet. My mom was allergic to cats so, unfortunately, she had to live outside.
There was a school across the street from our home and Boots would go and visit the children during the day. One day, we came home to find that she had been hit by a car and killed. That was the first loss of a family member I experienced in my young life. Through the loss of Boots, I learned how to deal with the inevitable loss of those we love that all of us will experience.
It has been shown that interacting with pets at an early age helps with the emotional development of children. Living with a pet teaches responsibility, compassion and empathy.
Wilbur was my first dog, whom we adopted when I was 12. He was a 6-week-old Husky-Australian shepherd cross, so just a big ball of black fur. My sister and I were given the jobs of taking care of Wilbur, feeding him, cleaning up after him and the biggest job of all, keeping all that fur brushed. Besides being a great companion, I am thankful as a boy that Wilbur taught me the responsibility of taking care of another living creature.
Margaret Anne was a grey-and-white domestic short-haired cat I found during my first year of veterinary school. I am thankful for how patient she was as I practiced performing a physical examination over and over again.
Margaret Anne also developed diabetes as she aged. She required insulin injections every 12 hours. This was a good lesson for me as I experienced what my clients go through when treating their own pets.
Libby was a white fluff ball who weighed no more than 15 pounds; I found her during my residency in Athens. She lived for close to 16 years so she went through a lot of life with me. I am most thankful for Libby as she was there during my separation and divorce. No matter how sad I was, Libby was always glad to see me and never wavered in her love for me. She would not let me feel lonely, and for that I will always be thankful.
Pet owners have been shown to be less likely to suffer from depression. AIDS patients who live with a pet also are less likely to suffer from depression. Animals provide structure to your daily routine. Even when you are not feeling well, you still must get out of bed to feed and care for them.
Inky and Ollie are the two cats that I still have with me. There are few things as calming as when they sit in my lap and let me pet them as they purr. There is evidence that pet ownership reduces stress and lowers blood pressure.
People who own dogs are generally more active than those who do not. They lead healthier life styles and are less likely to be overweight. My present dog Flipper always wants to play chase, go for a run and fetch. I am thankful for all of my pets for the health benefits they have provided.
There also is evidence that children who grow up in homes with pets are at a lower risk of developing asthma and allergies. Exposure to pets appears to benefit the developing immune systems in children. I am thankful to all the pets that have licked my kids’ faces and slept in their beds.
I cannot imagine a life without my pets. During this week I plan to reflect on how thankful I am for the companionship and health benefits they have provided to me and my family.
Dr. Henri Bianucci and Dr. Perry Jameson are with Veterinary Specialty Care LLC. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.