The language of love is well spoken among humans, especially on St-Valentine’s Day, but has remained hidden for certain creatures – particularly our pets and other animals. Whether this is because they lack speech to communicate or because we are oblivious to how to listen to them, the reasons remain unknown. However, some articles I read about these precious animals struck a chord in me and I could not prevent myself from humbly sharing with you their language of love.
An article published in Australian Occupational Therapy Journal, discussed the impacts of initiating a PAT (Pets as Therapy) programme with a dog and patients suffering from some form of dementia; more precisely, Alzheimer’s. These patients, who were defined as very difficult in terms of their behaviour (swearing and verbal abuse at the staff), have shown a drastic change and have become more social, cooperative and smile more while patting and speaking to the dog. However, after removing the dog, the patients again showed signs of difficult behaviour. So thank you Lobo (Labrador dog), for putting smiles on the faces of suffering patients; even for a short period of time (Walsh et al., 1995).
In 2007, an article from the American Journal of Critical Care, showed that using dogs as therapy for patients suffering from advanced heart failure helped them to improve their health. A decrease in heart rate, blood pressure and reduced anxiety were observed in these patients. (Cole, 2007). Studies have indicated that even observating animals reduced physiological responding to stressors, and increased positive mood (Fawcett and Gullone, 2001).
Is there a rational scientific relationship between animals and humans which can explain these well-desired effects? Maybe, yes. However, as it is Valentine’s Day, I will suggest that animals have mastered the language of love better than us humans.
However, still cases of cruelty against these defenseless and innocent creatures remain high and diverse: a kitten was bathed in gasoline, set on fire and thrown out of a moving car to die; a puppy was beaten with a hammer until it died; a cat was killed in a microwave (International Fund for Animal Welfare, or IFAW, 2011). Maybe reflecting on our pets as loyal companions and how they express their love, care and affection towards us, without expecting anything in return, might prevent cruelty.
Happy Valentine’s Day to all pets for bringing love and making us smile. Keep on singing the language of love. Many of us out there are listening to you.
Dedicated to Blackberry – my newly adopted kitten. Thank you for being you!
Neerusha Gokool Baurhoo
Cole KM, Gawlinski A, Steers N, Kotlerman J. 2007. Animal assisted therapy in patients hospitalized with heart failure. Am J Crit Care. 16, 575-585.
Fawcett, N. R. and Gullone, E. 2001. Cute and cuddly and a whole lot more? A call for empirical investigation into the therapeutic benefits of human-animal interaction for children. Behaviour Change, 18, 124–133
Walsh P. G., Mertin P. G., Verlander D. F. 1995. The effects of a “pets as therapy” dog on persons with dementia in a psychiatric ward. Australian Occupational Therapy Journal 42,161–166