Marlowe Evans.

Marlowe Evans.

Being Young: A prescription for wellness

‘People drawn to animals because we are social creatures.’

As the proud owner of two cats, an inherited horse, a dog, and a vast array of fish, I am confident when I say that animals truly make my life better.

While dogs have been dubbed ‘man’s best friend,’ it is not only dogs who create that inexplicable with bond with a pet; perhaps people sense that having an animal adds something imperceptible to everyday life.

Sometimes it’s waking up early on a school day and smiling because – yup, there’s my dog slinking in through my bedroom door to make sure I get out of bed.

Sometimes it’s giving my horse a bath on the hottest day of summer (I get more soaked than the horse does).

In a world where people are under constant stress from school, work, and home, having ‘someone’ who always seems to understand, and never asks questions, whose love is unconditional can be just what the doctor ordered – and increasingly- animals are becoming just that – a prescription for wellness.

It is my belief that people are drawn to animals because we are social creatures. In a world where increasingly, human interaction is done remotely, animals provide comfort and solace where technology cannot. Animals have been at our side since the beginning of recorded history.

The Egyptians worshiped cats, the Celts worshiped horses. Animals as companions seem to have always been wound into the fabric of our cultural existence. It’s a symbiotic relationship whose importance is often marginalized.

Even schools are realizing how important animals can be when it comes to stress relief and emotional support. Many universities across Canada employ therapy dogs during exam season to help alleviate test stress and boost morale.

Sometimes students stop in to visit the campus ‘dog room’ just because they had to leave their dogs at home while they went away to school. Equine therapy programs such as Maple Ridge’s North Fraser Therapeutic Riding Association provide a unique animal-human connection for children and adults who face unique challenges.

Pets are members of our families; sometimes they seem more like siblings, sometimes like extra parents. Take Jamieson, my dog, for example. He tells me when to get out of bed, and when to get in it. If I stay up too late, there he is whining to be taken to bed. He knows when I have to get up and go to school better than I do. He’s a ‘dad’ dog.

My horse, however, is definitely not the responsible type. We constantly get into trouble together, whether he’s coercing me into giving him extra treats, or he playfully chewing on somebody’s trousers. My horse is definitely a second sibling to me.

In many cases, animals are our first teachers. Children’s literature and picture book are chock full of animals. Children’s TV shows? Animals.

When I was a little girl, my very first lesson in ‘grown up responsibility’ was to look after a fish. I had to learn what it was like to take care of another living thing. I still remember that fish, named Spock, and the funeral we held when he died.

Our pets teach us not only about life, but also about death and how important it is to enjoy the fleeting time we share together. Who would’ve guessed that it would be a little blue and red beta fish that would teach me what it meant to be caring and accountable?

Animals have no prejudices. Dogs don’t care about what you look like, your religion or your politics. Fish don’t care who you are – they still come to the top of the pond to give your fingertips tiny kisses.

Our animals become a reflection of how we treat them.

My animals ask very little of me. Just love, play, food, water, veterinary care.

Pets can be work, but they are well worth the effort. They are a source of a special friendship – a bond like no other, unconditional love and trust.

Sometimes I wish it were that easy with people.

Marlowe Evans is a senior student at Thomas Haney and head delegate of the Model UN Delegation who writes about youth issues.