They're Not Just Animals They influence out lives more than we think.

The Impact of an Animal

Animals can affect and impact people’s lives in many different shapes and forms.

Animals are a considerably important part of humans’ lives for many people. Whether it is a farm animal, a service dog, a foster animal or a class pet, most everyone has had an animal in their lives at some point. Even if someone does not personally own one, they are still a part of people’s lives.

“I think animals are companions that give unconditional love, entertainment and are great cuddlers,” Julie Housley, education organizer for the Humane Society of Missouri, said.

Animals are one of humans’ number one choices for companions. According to the American Pet Product Association (APPA), approximately 70 to 80 million dogs and 74 to 96 million cats live in homes with people in the United States. According to The Top Tens, humans’ number one choice of animals is dogs and cats are the second choice.

“I have a coworker and their son brings his dog everywhere,” Housley said. “It is a different kind of bond between a person and their dog.”

According to studies done by the National Center for Health Research, the interactions between animals and humans can help reduce stress and the feeling of isolation. Also, Anita Watkins, staff veterinarian at Harvester Animal Clinic, says that they even help lower humans’ blood pressure. People need socialization and so do animals, and pets can help people struggling with depression by giving the person a sense of purpose and increase self-confidence.

“Animals engage their owners in stuff and help their owners get through a rough time just by loving them,” junior Amanda Denno said.

Adopting pets is important, according to Housley, because many do not have homes. To put it in perspective, if everyone adopted the amount of pets alive now, they would each have 15 dogs and 45 cats, according to the Humane Society.

Before adopting a pet, Watkins suggests that people look at their lifestyle. They are a lifetime commitment and it costs money to take care of them. Watkins says people should not rush into the decision, they need to seriously consider if it is the right choice for them. For the people that it is the right choice, she says the relationship is similar to a parent and a child or a really good friend.

“I just think that life is not complete without an animal,” Watkins said.

“[My pets are] pretty much a part of the family, we’ve always treated them as such. They’re always happy to see you and they always make your day better.”

-Senior Savannah McCann

“My dog likes to cuddle with me and he’s really big so he’s like a teddy bear and I like playing with him.”

-Sophomore Payton Stephenson

“My pets are important to me because they’re a part of my family. They always improve the atmosphere of my house and pick up my mood, no matter how I’m feeling.”

-Senior Kyle Rohlfing

MORE THAN JUST A TEMPORARY HOME

Five Acres Animal Shelter offers more than just cages for animals to stay in. They interact, feed, treat and much more with each animal.

Located off of Pralle Drive, Five Acres Animal Shelter does more than just give dogs a place to stay, they tether a bond with each dog who steps paw in the shelter. Cats and dogs who stay in the shelter will stay in the shelter until they find a home, no matter how long. The only one in Saint Charles, Five Acres is a nonprofit no-kill zone animal shelter.

“We’ll keep them for years if we have to,” employee Casie Hahn said. “Recently, we kept one dog for one and a half years until it found a forever home.”

The animals there stay active on the daily. Just in the backyard of the shelter, there are three play yards for regular exercise, and if the weather is between 32 and 82 degrees the animals will go outside. The animals are also placed in social groups. These are groups of animals that get along together and share similar interests. Some of the groups may change from week to week, introducing different animals to others.

Rosie, a Boxer/Retriever mix, sits in her enclosure as families consider her for adoption. Five Acres Animal Shelters offers small rooms for families looking to adopt an animal to spend time with them before adopting. (Photo by Alex Rowe)

“I love seeing different dogs get along spontaneously,” Hahn said. “It’s like something clicks and they’re new best friends.”

The jobs vary from taking care of animals to working and training them. Some days the shelter is so busy that all the workers are with a customer and in a cage with an animal, as opposed to other days when they may only have a couple visits per day. Junior Nate Dennigmann has been employed at Five Acres since the summer.

“I like working with dogs, and I like the job because it’s different from other jobs in our school,” Dennigmann said. “I’ve learned to distribute medicine and put in and remove staples from animals.”

The shelter has a program for limited-income pet owners called AniMeals. Every Sunday the shelter donates anything from food, leashes, collars and bowls to AniMeals, who then gives these supplies to low-income owners. Owners just have to show proof for the need to be accepted and a photo ID along with vet records to show the number of animals and weight for each animal.

“Not everyone can afford all the supplies for their loved pets, so the least we can do is help out those in need,” Hahn said.

Some animals don’t always step foot in the shelter feeling at their best. Some dogs at the shelter have experienced heartworms, an infection where a parasitic roundworm causes infection to the right side of the heart and in the great veins. The shelter treats this disease thoroughly with long-term treatment and takes evasive actions to prevent the disease for other dogs. All dogs are heartworm tested in the shelter.

“Some dogs need a little more work than others, but no matter the problem, size or previous owner, we will always give our 100 percent to all animals,” Hahn said.

READING WITH MAN’S BEST FRIEND

Therapy dogs come to libraries in the St. Charles City-County Library District for the Tale Waggers program to help children build confidence in their reading ability.

Dogs can help us in many ways, providing us with companionship, happiness and even some help with reading. Therapy dogs from the nonprofit organization Love on a Leash come to local libraries once a month for the Tale Waggers program. Tale Waggers invites local children to read to the dogs to practice reading and uplift their confidence in their skills.

“Reading to the dogs actually helps the kids boost their confidence in reading because when you’re a kid, it can be hard to read out loud in front of your peers, especially if you’re a struggling reader,” McClay branch manager Asia Gross said. “Dogs are nonjudgmental and they don’t care if you mess up or if you make a mistake.”

The program promotes literacy for children, giving them a chance to enhance their skills and boost their self-esteem while connecting with dogs. While the program’s main benefit is for the children, it can also help the dogs by giving them an opportunity to socialize with children, whose high energy levels can intimidate them.

“Dogs are social animals, and these are specially trained, even-tempered dogs,” McClay children’s services librarian Ann Randolph said. “These dogs have that temperament of calmness and enjoy being around people. It’s good for the person and it’s good for the dogs.”

For a child learning to read, reading to a parent or a teacher can be intimidating, while reading to a dog can make the child feel more comfortable and more eager to read. Therapy dogs have a very calm, docile nature, making the child feel more secure.

“Reading to animals can make kids more enthusiastic about reading and learning,” Christina Turnbull, junior and library page, said. “It gives them a bit more of an incentive to read. They can come to the library and interact with dogs while improving their skills.”

Vickey Keating and her service dog Watson. Watson leads Keatting with his harness on their walk around the neighborhood. Watson is a Lab and he is four years old. (Photo by Haleigh Schlogl)

A PUP WITH A PURPOSE

Josh and Tia Keating’s mother, Vicky Keating, has a service dog to guide her.

Imagine not knowing what lies ahead, the fear of how potentially dangerous the path may be. Now imagine a companion, a protector, to help navigate through all the unseen obstacles in the world. This is just one aspect of the trust-filled relationship between senior Josh and junior Tia Keating’s mother, Vicky Keating, and her sight dogs.

“Not only does he help me get around, he also helps me feel confident,” Vicky said. “I feel more confident. I’m not as nervous to go somewhere new if I have a dog with me. It just makes it easier.”

Throughout her life, Vicky has had four guide dogs to aid her in getting around, as she is blind. These include the family’s two dogs, Erica and Watson. Erica is the older of the two dogs. The family got Watson two years ago when Erica retired and Vicky needed another guide. Before them, there was a period in her life when she had no dog. She just had her family, which included two very young children.

“It was regular, everyday, normal life,” Josh said. “My dad, my sister and I would guide her around.”

Though Watson and Erica are responsible for Vicky’s wellbeing, life at home with them is still very normal. At home, they act like any other dog, fun and energetic, each with their own personality. The family thinks of them, loves them and treats them like normal dogs. Josh and Tia both recall being excited about getting a dog.

“I feel like in a way it brings us all closer because we’re all dog people, and we just love [them] so much,” Tia said.

However, the second they put the harness on him, the second he starts working, Watson’s personality changes. He becomes serious when he’s doing his job to guide Vicky away from any obstacles and hazards in her path.

“It can be scary when you can’t see and you can’t hear very well to go places and to do things,” Vicky said. “You know Watson’s there, and he guides me around, but he also just makes me feel better. He gives me the confidence I wouldn’t have without him.”

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