Couch snuggles

5 Reasons why Pet-Sharing is a Win-Win For All of Us

–by Courtney Wennerstrom, AAPP Director of Content

Animals have a sneaky way of bringing us together. In fact, I have met some of my best friends through my huskies, Saint and Sasha. One of them, their auntie Deb, who was originally their dog walker, has become a crucial member of our pack. On weekday mornings, our pups wait by the gate–4 ears pricked up in anticipation–for Deb to take them on a romp, pouting for hours on the rare days she cannot make it. We also frequently walk to Deb’s to enjoy a glass of wine and binge watch a TV show while they snuggle with us. Every Christmas Eve, Deb plays Santa Paws–barging through the front door carrying stockings stuffed to the brim with toys and treats, eliciting boisterous howls of excitement. Deb has become indispensable to our collective happiness.

Sasha showing off for her auntie Deb 🙂 Photo Credit, Courtney Wennerstrom

Another one of my favorite humans, Kim, is the owner of my pups’ daycare. When they first started going to Barkly Manor, she would describe their ridiculous antics at pickup until I snorted. It wasn’t long before she and I were brunch and strength-training buddies, partners-in-crime, and ultimately BFFs. True to her usual irreverent humor, auntie Kim recently gave Sasha a collar lined with flowers that reads “Here to F*&^ Sh*t UP”; and one for Saint one that states “Carole Baskin Did It” in tiny print over and over again. Without my dogs, I wouldn’t have Kim’s constant mischievousness to enliven my life.

The truth is, all of my relationships—including my marriage and the ones with my bonus children–are enhanced by our pets. In particular, I am in awe of the uncanny canine ability first to steal our hearts and then to deepen our bonds with other people. Our dogs have strengthened our family ties while our neighborhood pets—including Pete, a Rhodesian ridgeback mix; Margo, a pibble-mix puppy, and a cat named Kat–have united us as a larger community.

Sasha and Saint are rescues who have endured trauma…so I absolutely love that they now have a devoted coterie of fans who belong to them. As hurricane Harvey survivor, Saint traveled overnight from Houston to Denver on a crowded transport truck with 50 other animals–terrified, emaciated, and so desperate for love that he practically slept on our heads for the first four months in our home. We have less insight into Sasha’s story, but it took her a full two years to fully open up to us. Now, my babies have a whole team of humans who ensure they are always safe and happy.

As it turns out, more and more people are sharing their pets. This is becoming especially common after separation or divorce. When breaking ties is not amicable, pets can even become embroiled in custody battles. Special mediators and “petnups” are helping settle some of these disputes by keeping animals’ emotional well-being in mind, too. But sharing our pets helps in other situations as well.

The top 5 reasons why pet-sharing is a win-win for everyone!

1. Your pets now have a larger support system and more resources

Human parents already understand how valuable it is to have a community to help raise their children. Dogs likewise have complex emotional and physical needs: exercise and playtime, a healthy diet, mental stimulation, veterinary care, and diverse experiences in order to live beautifully. If someone in your inner circle loves to bake healthy homemade dog treats, like Deb does…and someone else loves to go on vigorous hikes but lives somewhere that does not allow pets or is willing to hike with their pups and yours…and someone else has less time in the day but more financial resources for vet bills and the ability to snuggle pets at night–and everyone agrees to take on different aspects of pet care–then pet-sharing can truly work well for all involved.

Imagine how many more shelter animals would be adopted if humans had more support in taking care of them?

2. Your relationships with other people will be more meaningful

It is well documented just how important pets are to our well-being. They are superheroes who fight depression and anxiety; encourage us to get outside and enjoy the fresh air; remind us to laugh and play; force us to slow down and revel in the moment; lower our blood pressure; and generally keep us sane and healthy. Not surprisingly, we are learning more and more about how they also strengthen human relationships and help build communities when they work their magic on us.

For one thing, as Lorrie Shaw points out in The Ann Arbor News, pets often play the role of what psychologists call an ’emotional Third’–or a neutral party who can help couples find common ground.

However, because they bring out the best in us and serve as reminders of why we love the people in our lives, I’ve also found this to be true in my platonic and familial relationships. My mom and I rarely agree on politics, for instance–but it melts my heart to watch her interact with and love my babies, and their bond enables my mom and I to overcome our differences more easily. My mom cannot have her own dogs right now, but mine love to visit their grandma.

Pets not only help negotiate partnerships and friendships but, as Julie Hecht suggests, they also deepen and solidify these relationships. For example, one particular study showed that “people with pets were generally more likely than those without to get to know others in the neighborhood” and revealed that dogs “reign king as social lubricants [by] prompting conversations and interactions between otherwise strangers”. Another study revealed that “relationships formed through pets, particularly dogs, can have a bit more substance to them. About 42% of pet owners described receiving what psychologists call ‘social support’ from someone they’d met through their pet”.

We likely agree that pets are good judges of character–so if they do not like someone, we might not either. And the same is true for they humans they adore: they choose friends well and inspire us to do the same.

In short, dogs are better social lubricants than alcohol for making new friends, and they even use their love-sorcery to help us maintain and nurture those relationships. How cool is that?

3. You can travel with ease, knowing your babies are safe and sound

Wherever my husband and I go on vacation, Sasha and Saint stay with Deb: her house is their second home. She sends us hilarious pictures and videos of them lounging in her kitchen while she bakes homemade treats and of the howling frenzy that ensues once the goodies are ready. Huskies have a lot of opinions, and ours are not shy about asking for an extra cookie or three. There are almost no words for the peace of mind it brings us knowing that our babies are having a blast while we are away, especially since she watches and spoils our cats, Leche and Mojo, too.

Similarly, my dad and step-mom share their black lab mix, Piper, with their neighbors, Bridget and Bruce. When they lost their dog Nikki several years ago, they took to watching Bruno, Bridget and Bruce’s black lab…and when they all lost Bruno, and my parents got Piper, they started to share him, too. Now whenever they travel, Piper has a second home to call his own while my parents are off on an adventure.

For animals who have a hard time being kenneled, do not like other pets, or are easily stressed out by new environments, pet-sharing allows them to always feel at home. We are lucky because if Deb were ever too busy to petsit, Kim or countless friends or neighbors would step up. Knowing my babies are loved by so many people allows me to vacation with ease.

4. You can help ease both the costs and time demands of pet guardianship by co-parenting

There are many tangible benefits of co-parenting our pets, including splitting the increasingly-prohibitive costs for routine and emergency veterinary care, food, toys, beds, treats, professional grooming, pet insurance, and other important products and services.

Sharing pets can also give us a break from high-energy dogs, like Sasha and Saint, who need a lot of fun activities and attention to stay happy and healthy. Dog’s Best Life offers useful tips for successfully co-parenting here.

5. Your pets can bring joy to those who cannot have pets of their own

If your pets are particularly social and loving–often acting as therapists when you’re blue–you may consider registering them as a therapy animal. Our partners at Pet Partners, for instance–the nation’s most prestigious therapy animal registry–work with over 9 species of pets, including cats, dogs, horses, and pigs, as therapy animals! Read more to find out if you and your pet have what it takes to brighten someone’s day.

It’s fine not to share your pets and not all pets like to be shared. But for those of us who can, it can be a really lovely experience.

Published On: February 14, 2022|Categories: Cats, Courtney on the Human-Animal Bond, Dogs|