What is the human-animal bond?
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) defines the human-animal bond as:
“a mutually beneficial and dynamic relationship between people and animals that is influenced by behaviors that are essential to the health and well-being of both. This includes, but is not limited to, emotional, psychological, and physical interactions of people, animals, and the environment. The veterinarian’s role in the human-animal bond is to maximize the potentials of this relationship between people and animals.”1
In honor of the awesomeness that is the human-animal bond, I’m going to put aside the excruciating embarrassment about my awkward child-self, and include some personal photos from the past. And yep, that odd little girl above having her face licked by a cow is me, circa 1986.. My grandparents used to have a dairy farm in country Victoria, and hanging out with the animals there is central to so many happy childhood memories.
My own little calf “Tiny Tim” wasn’t always this tiny
Let’s be honest, the special relationship we have with our pets is SUPER AMAZING! It doesn’t matter whether we call ourselves pet owners or pet parents, or whether our furry little friends are our ‘pets’ or ‘fur-babies.’ It doesn’t matter if they are dog, cat, pony, bird or bunny; the fact is, we share a bond like no other.
‘Obie’ would regularly be overhead telling the other horses “I’m not fat, I’m just big-boned”…
The emotional attachment we feel with animals can be very strong. Who else offers us unconditional love without ever judging us for our terrible fashion sense or wicked mood swings? Who else sits and listens patiently as we rant about the horrible day we’ve had at work, never rolling their eyes or offering unasked for advice. Just listening. And maybe laying a furry chin on our knee, a silent request for a little scratch behind the ears.
A very brave (or silly) foster kitten trying his luck playing with Anika’s tail (no kittens were harmed in the making of this photo!)
We can totally be ourselves around our pets. We can pull stupid faces, dance around in the nude, sing badly, and even fart stinkily in their presence. I’m being hypothetical of course… Do they show disgust, or ask us to ‘talk to the paw’? Heck no, more than likely they offer a big doggy grin and join in. Actually I’ve learned the hard way that a happy dance with my herding-breed dog tends to end with a torn pair of pants.
“The greatest pleasure of a dog is that you may make a fool of yourself with him, and not only will he not scold you, but he will make a fool of himself, too” – Samuel Butler
Our feline friends may not be quite as quick to embarrass themselves (although there are a few goofy ones around), but nonetheless they’re not going to tell us off for being stupid.
and let’s face it, they tolerate a lot of crap.
Pets enrich our lives in so many ways, being there through the good times and the bad. Often more so than any human companion. We can share our innermost secrets with them and love them without ever fearing rejection, and they really ask for nothing in return. Well that’s not entirely true, my dogs both routinely back up to me (cue sound of a truck reversing) in order to demand a butt scratch. But that’s ok, I think I can manage that much in return for all their companionship and devotion.
I can’t imagine having grown up without animals in my life
Pet ownership (or pet parenthood) has so many positives aside from being able to act like a crazy person without being judged. The human-animal bond has been scientifically proven to benefit people. It has been linked to reduced blood pressure and cholesterol levels as well as reduced anxiety. It increases opportunities for exercise and getting out and about and socializing, and it decreases feelings of loneliness. Growing up with pets teaches kids many valuable lessons, and gives them someone to talk to when maybe no one else will listen.
We weren’t allowed to take Mog to school with us, but we would’ve liked to!
Then there are the truly incredible service animals without whom their owners simply couldn’t get through the day. But that’s a story for another time. Celebration of and protection of the human-animal bond is the reason veterinarians exist. We wouldn’t have a job if people didn’t have profound emotional attachments to their pets, and we wouldn’t be vets if we didn’t also feel the same way.
Have you had an animal that has changed your life forever?