Dog companion stock

People reap many benefits from having a furry companion.

According to Amanda Miller, co-owner of affoGATO, a cat cafe in Cleveland’s Tremont neighborhood, and Sunny Simon, director and founder of the South Euclid Humane Society in South Euclid, the benefits can range from mental changes to physical or lifestyle changes.

“Animals have a very healing presence and I’ve been doing rescue and adoption for so many years, so I’ve seen how animals can transform people’s lives,” said Simon, who is also Cuyahoga County Councilwoman for District 1. “Recently, we had someone just recovering from breast cancer surgery. They were able to adopt a kitten, which totally helped with the healing process to love something and take the attention off of their plight. Also, it’s about having someone to come home to and greet you.”

Simon added having a pet offers social benefits.

“It gets you out of the house, especially if you have a dog,” she noted. “It gets you outside to meet the neighbors and that can be huge for some people. And especially at dog parks, people with dogs have a way to connect with the community and enrich their circle of friends. That brings you outside.”

Miller said “countless ways” exist for a pet to improve the life of an owner.

“Pet ownership can help you deal with grief, loneliness and depression,” she said. “And if you find a pet that matches your lifestyle and needs, it can improve your quality of life.”

Like Miller said, finding a pet that matches your lifestyle is the best scenario. Finding that pet to build a long-term relationship with can be a bit of a project, she added.

“It depends on what role that person is looking to fill in their life and the personality of a pet they choose,” Miller said. “Even within a single family, the cat can serve multiple roles with different people. If you live alone, you’re going to become best friends with them and fill all the roles. It depends on what the pet needs and what you need, and how you can find that middle ground.”

Simon added, “It’s a commitment for the family or the adopter to provide a home and a home environment for animal’s life. Because of that, the animal becomes part of the family’s core fabric. It can be part of the sibling makeup as well if the pet grows alongside the children, too.”

Simon and Miller said the relationship between a pet and owner is unique and tends to be unmatched if the pairing is perfect.

“Every animal is unique and every person is unique,” Simon said. “With that combination, you can’t replace a person or the personality of a pet. Everyone has that unique thing, and when that bond happens, that pet becomes your companion and part of the family. Part of what we try to do is match up the animal with the respective adopter because of their personalities. There is something about animals that bring out the best in people.”

Miller added, “With another person, you can get to know them right away by just speaking and interacting with them. But with an animal, you have to learn what they like and don’t like with nonverbal cues. It makes the bond much stronger because you have to learn about them.”

Having a pet match your lifestyle is the best way to get a pet in the first place, they said.

“That is the best way to find a pet for you,” Miller stated. “You can try and make the pet-owner relationship work, but it is easier to find a pet that fills those roles for you, and an owner that fills the needs of a pet. If you do that, it makes a better match and it makes settling in much easier for all involved.”

Simon added, “It’s important because everyone wants the relationship to work. We don’t want the pet to bounce back and return to us. You need pets that match the way you live. It’s a lifetime commitment. We want to make sure it works for everyone.”

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