THE FELINE ALARM CLOCK
Each morning, just as I am finally pulling myself out of bed, my aloof Maine Coon cat, Jack, jumps on the bed to snuggle. Since I can’t resist, it is usually 15 or 20 minutes later when I finally get on my feet. (I can never get him to jump on my lap when I call him. It is always on his terms.)
I always start the day happy when Jack is my alarm clock. I can’t help laughing at his catness, which immediately releases any anxiety I am feeling about the day.
TOUCH IS GOOD FOR YOUR HEALTH
The older I get the more aware I become of the importance of touch. It is as important to health as any pharmaceutical. I have written about my favorite hormone, oxytocin, and the comfort my mother experienced when she agreed to cat sit for a month at the time my father was slipping into dementia. I notice the impact of touch more every day.
My husband gets a similar hit of happiness each morning when he goes downstairs to get the newspaper and start the coffee. Malcolm, our black Lab, is always waiting at the foot of the stairs, wriggling and hopping. He wraps his body almost completely around David while they have a love fest of petting, scratching, growling, nudging, and inarticulate noises.
TAKE THE DOG TO THE NURSING HOME
I used to bring Malcolm with me to visit Mom. Margaret, another resident, never failed to beam at us with delight and then tell us about the Labrador Retrievers she had loved in younger years. She never remembered us from one visit to the next, but she was full of joy when we showed up.
If you have a nice dog, bring him or her with you the next time you visit a nursing home. It really is the one of the best things you can do. A pet bunny, gerbil, rat, or cat may also suffice, but they are more difficult to manage.
TOUCH REACHES THE UNCONSCIOUS
When my mother had lapsed into a coma during the last few days of her life, her breathing changed whenever one of us would climb on her bed, hold her hand, and pet her gently. I know the touch kept her with us longer. She passed away when all of us finally went home for a good night’s sleep.
During that time I kept remembering all the times Mom would reach out to touch us–holding hands, patting a shoulder, or giving a big hug. Dad was a hugger too. We were a touchy family and still are. I am grateful I live with a pack that hugs, strokes, and gets up close and personal. My brother had a girlfriend who used to tell him, “Everyone needs 12 hugs a day.” She was a wise woman.
Image by Ms.Tea via Flickr
TOUCH HEALS THE HURT
Late stage Alzheimer’s patients become calmer when they are touched in a way they like. Sometimes a pet climbing into a lap is all that is needed to soothe a soul. Holding someone’s hand can make them smile.
Programs in the prison system that pair prisoners with dogs show positive effects for both dogs and convicts. I have read case studies of abused children who survived their awful childhoods to become mentally healthy adults because of the nurturing of a family animal during childhood.
My family didn’t have pets growing up. Maybe I needed that. I did not come into my nurturing instincts until late in life. Yup, it was another cat. Melitta, was the beloved pet of my boyfriend, Bob. She took a liking to me. One day, Melitta and I shared a long look. I knew she was about to come to me. I experienced an unfamiliar, sweet, happy feeling in my gut that moved me to tears. It took a while to realize I had learned how to love at a deeper level. Pet love is pretty easy and simple, yet I have learned to respect the relationships between animals and humans as every bit as powerful as the love between those of the same species.
If you are lonely or stressed, get a pet. Pet love does not replace human love, but it can help you experience love at all levels.
If you live alone, find some way to touch and be touched. Hospitals need people to rock babies.
If you know someone who is lonely go talk to them, and find a way to touch them. Just a pat on the shoulder can help.
Buy a troubled friend a massage.
If you need a quick fix of happiness, just stop by the local dog park, with or without dog.
If you feel isolated, got get your hair done. The beauty parlor can work wonders.
Get or give a touch fix. You will feel better. I promise.
Copyright TheNewElder 2012