The Healing Power of Dogs (and cats)


I woke up with a headache on Sunday morning – a migraine. I get a couple per month; they are not completely unpredictable. But I had planned one getting a lot of things done, so I was a bit stubborn. I got dressed, took some medication, and tried to start the day anyway. I fed the dogs, cats, and chickens, had a little breakfast . . . and then had to go back to bed.

After a couple of hours, I tried again. Ugh. Head still hurt. I took another prescription medication, drank some water, put my sunglasses on, and wandered around the house. I made some calls; I’m a great listener when I have a headache, very sympathetic!

In the early afternoon, I gave up. I found my way to the couch with a nice down blanket – and that’s when the “pet therapy” started. First Otto found his way to my side (he was outdoors, but he knows how to open the sliding glass door in the kitchen). He put his chin on my shoulder, stared into my face with his big, bright, mischievous eyes, wagging his tail – but when he got little response, he sighed deeply and just curled up on the rug next to the couch. Then my niece’s Chihuahua found the open door and a blanketed person (me) on the couch. Score! He hopped up and found a cozy spot on my tummy. At some point, my two young cats joined us, one on my chest right under my chin, and the other down between my knees, and they added purring to the mix.

It had been raining in the morning, but by late afternoon, the sky had cleared; I could tell it was bright and sunny (though chilly) outside – but all the animals stayed put. I did breathing exercises and kept visualizing the dispersal of the pain in my head; I focused on the furry forms all around me and silently thanked them for their company and warmth. My husband came into the room a couple of times, but saw that I was being taken care of and silently withdrew.

The headache never quite went completely away, though its intensity faded as the evening wore on. It was so much easier to bear with my companions arrayed on every side of me, and I’m extra grateful to them today.