Friday 20 September 2019

I won't be in today... Fido has a touch of the flu

There are many mental benefits to having a pet
There are many mental benefits to having a pet

I was very taken by the story of the Italian academic who claimed two days sick leave from her university because her dog was sick. Needless to say the employer took a poor view of this and the issue ended up in court. The judge found that the pet was part of the family, so the woman won her case and Italian employers must be quaking in their boots. I assume she provided a vet's certificate.

It did strike me that the Italian judges are not much different from ours and it is only a matter of time before one of our learned friends awards about 15,000 to some pooch that was in a five-mile-an-hour motor accident and the owner swears is plagued by whiplash.

The central point in court was the pet was part of the family. It was also pointed out that it would have been cruel to leave the sick animal alone.

Italy has harsh penalties for cruelty to animals and that is as it should be. Anyone who is cruel to an animal is the lowest of the low in my book.

I was at the arrivals gate in an airport during the summer and watched a man get the most enthusiastic greeting I have ever witnessed. It was not from his wife. She was a mere bemused bystander. It was from a small dog who was beside itself with excitement to see the return of its master. The delighted man's face was licked ferociously by the delirious pooch who totally lost control. The man's wife must have known the drill as she eventually reclaimed the dog and gave her husband a clean T-shirt. Minutes later he emerged from the bathroom to a more sedate welcome from his wife. There were certainly three happy members of that family and only two were human.

There is no shortage of psychological research showing the benefits to our mental health of having a pet. Depression rates are a great deal lower. Self esteem is higher.

And the benefits are not just to our mental health. Studies have found blood pressure is lower in pet owners. It also appears that pets are of great assistance in dealing with stress. Not surprisingly people with dogs get more exercise. But they also gain from many friendly social interactions when out walking with Fido.

I am a firm believer that it is good for children to take care of, and love, an animal. About 90pc of children are fortunate to have a pet at some time in childhood.

Most of us have happy memories. And many of us first experienced grief when it was time to say goodbye to a much loved friend. I remember failing miserably to hold back the tears not so long ago when saying goodbye to a very faithful little mutt that I knew well.

It seems the Italian lady had a point. Ask any family is their pet a family member and it seems most people will say 'yes'.

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