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#HAWMC: Pet Pal

#HAWMC Day 11.

Write a thank you letter to your furry, feathery, or fishy friend for always being there for you. How have they helped you cope with your health condition?

Hmm, I can’t write this thank you letter. I was never one for pets, seeking solace more in books.

This blogging prompt reminds me though of a Filipino superstition that disease can be transferred to a pet who willingly sacrifices its life to protect its human owner.

A teacher I know has an aquarium in the office. I was in her office one day admiring the fish. And she said, it troubles me but it has happened several times. Whenever she feels like shouting at someone, she instead looks at one particular fish and shouts at it in her mind. The following day, that fish would be dead. Can you believe that?!

You know those Readers’ Digest jokes? My 8-year-old son loves those! Here’s one –

What can you catch but not throw?

He couldn’t guess what it was. The answer is – colds! And he goes, that’s not true. Mama (that’s what he calls my mom) throws my colds to our dogs and I get better! My grandmother did it for my mom, my mom for me and now my son. Whenever I would get sick, like with a cough for example, my mom would move her hands as if she is getting something from my back. Then she would make a throwing motion in the air in the general direction of the pet and say, Take away this cough from Iris. Give it instead to (name of pet). Apparently, it’s not enough to just throw “it” away as it might transfer to another human, so the pet’s name must be specified. Thankfully, NONE of our pets have died because of this. But we’ve all recovered. 🙂

To counter superstition 🙂 let me end with a published study – Creature comforts: personal communities, pets and the work of managing a long-term condition by Brooks et al. Click on the link for the full text. It’s objective was to explore the role of pets in a person’s social network and its contribution to managing chronic disease. The authors concluded –

The findings suggest that pets have unique qualities and are not simply substitutes for human relationships in long-term condition management.

It’s an interesting paper. The following are worth noting –

  • Reciprocity is inherent in human relationships. This is not often possible when one is sick. When you are sick, you don’t want to be a burden to others. With a pet, it’s just there for you. Reciprocity is expressed in feeding, grooming and exercising your pet.
  • Pets are a source of emotional support minus the nagging. 🙂 These are the authors’ words.
  • Pets recognize when their owners are ill, and that includes mental well-being.
  • This I like – exercise routines are more ingrained. As an example, walking the dog daily means the owner walks regularly too.
  • A dog also makes its owner feel more secure. One can feel vulnerable when sick.


Reference: Brooks HL, Rogers A, Kapadia D, Pilgrim J, Reeves D and Vassilev I. Creature comforts: personal communities, pets and the work of managing a long-term condition. Chronic Illn 2013 Jun; 9(2):87-102.

2 thoughts on “#HAWMC: Pet Pal”

  1. I love love this! I truly feel that sometimes my dog takes on my sadness. She’s seems to intuit when I’m in a depressive cycle and stays extra close to me so I can pet and hug her. She seems to “get” it more than most people.

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