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Cheer Up the Lonely Today!

by Dr. Tim Kirby

At a recent summer show as I strolled along with our beloved dog “rascal”, a stranger approached us and began to feverishly rub rascal’s head with the exuberance of a 5 year old child. This “man” then asked me all about Rascal and how long we had owned him. As I replied, I noticed how a veil of sadness automatically swept across his face. “So do you have a dog” I quipped, to which “the man” replied, “no, but I did 25 years ago when my wife was alive”.

Edwin’s wife had died suddenly 2 years previously, and in his own words, “she was my life”. The couple’s children had since all grown up, and moved abroad. Now, Edwin lived a secluded life alone in a 5 bedroom house which lacked the life and energy of his previous 40 year family life. Before my eyes, I could see and feel the raw loneliness of a man who longed for happiness again. As rascal licked Edwin’s hands like a best furry friend, I could sense a smile sprouting through the man’s heartbroken, weather beaten face.

“Would you ever consider getting a dog again”, I quipped? Edwin paused momentarily and replied, “I don’t have the confidence to own a dog now, but deep down I would love the company”. After a short while, I explained to Edwin, that he could softly re-introduce himself to pet ownership without any stress, by fostering!Pet fostering brings so many benefits and positive changes to a household, not only for the pet, but also for the people who become foster parents. If you are someone who is somewhat nervous about trying something new, or maybe lacking in confidence to make that long term commitment to pet adoption or ownership straight away, then why not try fostering first!

Pet fostering is where you welcome a rescue centre pet to your home for a trial period, basically to see how well you both get on. If you both are compatible, a longer term bond may develop between you both.

Did you know that fostering a dog has proven to drastically reduce loneliness and depression!

Pet Fostering has been scientifically proven to reduce loneliness

The affection from, and for a pet, also significantly calms your mind and scientists have related this to a lowering in blood pressure, heart rate and overall stress.
An amazing 74% of pet parents who fostered or adopted a pet, reported a clear improvement in their own mental health. By fostering a pet, you are also more likely to develop responsible daily routines as your pet is dependent on you. These traits of accountability and dependence will also significantly help in your own personal life.

Fostering  a pet is also a fantastic way to meet new people. We also know that pet parents receive more social attention than non pet parents. If socialising is a challenge for you, then you could not have a better ice-breaker than your “amazing” four legged foster friend. We know how sociable dogs are, so as humans let’s follow their lead on this one!

I also explained to Edwin that the kindness and love invested in fostering a rescue centre pet, has a hugely positive ripple effect. For the rescue centre, it allows them valuable time and space in identifying a suitable longer term adoption family for the pet. This process can take a significant period of time, and it is a huge comfort and relief to rescue centre partners, knowing that a pet is being safely cared for by a loving foster family. Regardless for how long the foster period lasts, it is of enormous benefit.

By fostering a dog, you are also playing your part in advocating and supporting good animal welfare. Every dog has a unique identity and character, and express themselves by socialising and interacting with other people and pets.  It is an innate desire for dogs to be playful, interactive and to give and receive love. This ideally happens when a pet is part of a family. For unfortunate rescue animals, this opportunity of being “a family member” is not possible for them whilst in care. By choosing to foster a rescue centre pet, you offer them the priceless gift of self expression again. The ability to show their true identity, be themselves and to love and be loved.

For Edwin, this random conversation was the first step in tackling his loneliness. Soon afterwards, together we sourced a beautiful Husky which Edwin initially fostered. I’m delighted to say that he now intends to adopt “Sneachta” whom he recently described as his reason for getting out of bed each morning.

PetBond is Ireland’s most safe and trusted platform for anyone looking to source a new pet. We are run by a team of vets who are dedicated to improving lives.