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Pets and the Power of Unconditional Love

A nine year old boy was talking about his worries. Sadly, he did not feel comfortable to share these with his parents. I asked him if he talks to anyone about his concerns. “I talk to my dog,” he said. “He always listens to me.”

Such is the power of pets. They offer an unconditional love that many of us just do not experience with people. While the relationships may not be as intense as human ones, they are nevertheless extremely powerful and rewarding.

An advertisement recently captured this sentiment in a split second. The father was returning home from work. By the expression on his face it had been a long day. He enters the house and greets his two teenage sons who are slumped in front of the television. They grunt in response, their eyes never lifting from the screen. It is his dog that comes bounding to him resulting in a smile on his face.

New Zealanders cherish their relationships with their pets. A woman recently relayed to me she will only purchase pet food with added omega 3 for her pet, despite the substantial cost. Consider that our supermarkets devote an entire aisle to pet food.

When people speak of their pets they often do so in anthropomorphic terms. These are not mere animals but rather highly valued members of the family. They will devote substantial resources, in money and time, to their care. And they feel rewarded many times over.

Such relationships are highly therapeutic in New Zealand if we consider some major trends. The proportion of New Zealanders living alone is high and on the rise. Currently one in four households are home to one person. Within a decade this is predicted to rise to one in three. Consider too, our ageing population. The oldest of the Baby Boomers turn 66 this year and within two decades we will have a significant proportion of Mature New Zealanders. With many women outliving men, widows may draw comfort from the constant company of a companion pet.

When parents talk about the reasons for getting a dog, they speak of wanting to teach their kids responsibility. They want them to learn to look after and care for it. Speak to the kids and more often than not you find their rewards to be enormous. The bonds they have developed offer them great comfort.

The power of such relationships is often lost on those that have never owned a pet. How would you explain it to them?

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