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Dogs and mental health

On a bad day when you're feeling particularly unlovable or...perhaps unloved...having the family pet curled up happily beside you on the sofa is a healthy tonic. Our pets love us unconditionally. Even at our worst.

Though we don't have a pet of our own, we're blessed with friends who allow us to share their dog...she visits us whenever they're out of town, or when they're feeling generous. Whenever she (her name is Trousers) is about and our kids are feeling angsty, Trousers senses the problem and runs to their side...stands on their feet, even. Predictably, our children will lean down to cuddle her and, suddenly, her kind gesture turns things around. She, the dog, has a calming presence in our house.

Having this experience, I was deeply troubled when our adopted grandad's dog died very suddenly (we don't have local grandparents, so we bake our biscuits for a lovely local 90 year old, instead :) As his wife is housebound and unable to converse, his dog was his best friend. She was always by his side as he went about his daily routine and local shop and cafe owners seemed to always make allowances for his deaf, blind 16 year old westie; somehow they understood that the pair went together and that the usual rules need not apply. Of course, when his best friend, the westie, died in late October, his life was greatly changed.

He no longer had a companion for keeping his habit of walking 5 miles a day. He didn't have anyone but himself to talk to about the house. He didn't have a cute companion as his excuse for making conversation with new friends in the local park. Those were dark days. He mourned the loss fully.

Two weeks ago, adopted grandad announced he had gotten a new dog...a winner, as he was described. Having mourned the loss of his best friend, he realised there was no time to lose in getting another pet.

Children and the elderly seem to be drawn to dogs...and experts say that having a pet helps us all to be happier...just wish I could commit. Hmmm...for now, we'll stick with Trousers.

Bumble Box family activity kits make parents heroes. We catch animals' footprints in the sand, give the trees a shake to see what's living in there, host a Family Olympics, plant a fairy garden, race homemade boats in the stream...you get the drift. Together, we'll make it through your family-time bucket list while the children are still small.

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