Tail Wags And Bum Wiggles Are Good For Your Mental Health

Four-legged, furry family members help to focus on the positive, say Wilmot pet owners.

Blythe, Meghan and Paul Mackie said that Islay the Sheltie is good for the family’s mental and physical health. “We’re all pretty much on the same page with the positive aspects of having an active pet in the house during these awkward times."

Blythe, Meghan and Paul Mackie said that Islay the Sheltie is good for the family’s mental and physical health. “We’re all pretty much on the same page with the positive aspects of having an active pet in the house during these awkward times."

She might not be able to smile, laugh or say much, but Islay is still able to lift her family’s spirits. The energetic Sheltie will turn three in June.

“Having Islay at the door each time any of us arrive, happy and excited, with big brown eyes looking up at you, her tail and her entire body in motion, with a few barks, is uplifting and simply can’t be ignored,” said Islay’s “Dad,” Paul Mackie.

Mackie said he and his wife, Lynne, as well as their daughters, Blythe and Meghan, all adore having her with them in their New Hamburg home.

“We’re all pretty much on the same page with the positive aspects of having an active pet in the house during these awkward times,” said Paul.

As the family is spending much more time than usual at home, Islay helps to provide some calming normalcy throughout the day.

“Intermittent contact with Islay, for a scratch and a nudge to say hi, is a bonus and is uplifting for sure,” said Mackie. “Some quiet time, snuggling with the dog in her quiet places, helps to lift spirits, regardless of stressors, endless meetings and loneliness. She’ll keep coming back to check on us, and she’s there, when we’re ready, to be comforted, with tail wagging and excited nudges.”

Islay– pronounced “eye-lah” – also gives the family a reason to stay active.

“Walks, walks, and more walks,” Mackie said. “In some of those low times, when we might choose to isolate or snooze on the couch, having a dog to nudge you to go outside can’t be anything but good for our physical and our mental health.”

The Mackies’ extended family has been taking physically-distanced weekend hikes on Wilmot’s trails, which can include up to five lively dogs.

“While it’s not the kind of physical contact we’re all craving, it’s outdoors, it’s time with family, and the dogs have been the anchor to draw the group together.”

“We love our pets, and coming home to an empty and silent house is not something we see happening anytime soon.”

Dr. Glen Blier, owner of New Hamburg Veterinarian Clinic, said pets help to reduce stress levels in three ways.

First, animals in the home reduce feelings of isolation by providing unconditional love and acceptance.

“Many studies show a decrease in cortisol, blood pressure and resting heart rate in pet owners,” explained Blier.

Second, exercise plays a large part in supporting mental health, whether that’s riding a horse or walking a dog.

“Both are key parts of improved well being.” 

Third is regular maintenance. “Pets require care, and when other routines around school or work have been disrupted, pets’ needs help maintain a routine.”

Blier said his family finds joy in the company of their Chocolate Lab and two young cats.

“Milo, our old Lab, has been a constant,” he said. “He’s a love and will brighten any day that challenges our family. He loves fishing with myself and the boys. The kittens have been a great distraction to maintain our focus on them instead of the world around us.”

If anyone could use a distraction right now, it’s Baden’s Tanya Rogerson, who works as a nurse at St. Mary’s Hospital, where her husband, Glen, is a physiotherapist. Thankfully, they have Harley, a 12-and-a-half-year-old Scandinavian Hound, who has been with them since he was a puppy.

The couple’s work life has been increasingly stressful during COVID, but Harley provides a much-needed domestic reprieve.

“I honestly don’t know what I would do without him,” said Rogerson. “When we come home from work, nothing is better than Harley greeting us at the door with tail wags so fast his bum wiggles, and his lips curl up like he’s smiling. Without him, I’m not sure how we would make it through these tough times.”

“I myself struggle with mental health, so having Harley is a huge help,” she added. “He absolutely loves his walks with us. Sometimes we even just go for a car ride so he can stick his head out the window and let the wind flop his ears.”

As well as being a nurse, Rogerson runs her own business, Kibbles n Sits Pet Services.

“I actually decided to do this for my mental health. I cut my shifts back at the hospital to focus on my business,” she said.

It’s the best decision she ever made.

“There’s no stress at all. I get up to four hours of dog-walking a day. It brings me so much happiness to be able to care for people’s pets.”

Although everyone is looking forward to the end of the pandemic, Rogerson said her clients are going to miss having their pets around all day.

“The hard part, they tell me, is that when we go back to work, we’ll all have separation anxiety!”