Healthy Beginnings


  • September 3, 2006
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  • By Jill Fineberg
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  • Categories: Past Articles

photograph by Jill Fineberg

Many organizations, centers, and educational facilities around the world are presently studying the human-animal bond and the complex relationships we share. People’s attitudes toward animals and their treatment have undergone dramatic shifts in the last twenty years, and that change is the driving force for global reassessment of the important role animals play.

At a time when psychology, sociology, and politics have sucked the spontaneity out of human relations, the simplicity of our affection with pets is a model for the smaller, intimate moments that really sustain us. Without those ties that bind-—the bonds of love, friendship, responsibility, and dependence—we gradually begin to whither away. It is our bonds that keep us healthy . . . Against the backdrop of forced and awkward contact with the world, the regularity of that wagging tail and the unconditional affection of your pets brings you instantly out of isolation. You stop rattling around inside your own head, and focus on what they give you—simply and for free.”

The western medical field is beginning to share this belief that our relational connection to our animals can actually heal us. Most of the research and statistical studies thus far have been about dogs and cats, but it is understood that all pet companions, furry, feathered, or scaled, have the positive potential to bridge directly to our immune system. It is the chemical and psychological shift in our mind, body, heart and spirit that is affected, whether we are combing a guinea pig, looking directly into the wide, moist eyes of our golden retriever, or handling our pet boa constrictor. As Dr. Marty Becker wrote in his book, The Healing Power of Pets, “Basically we’re talking about the support systems cleverly disguised as pets.”

The above are excerpts taken from People I Sleep With with permission from author Jill Fineberg. For more information about the health benefits of pet ownership, you may go to or read this specific chapter in the book, which is available at most bookstores and