Research shows that owning a pet helps to decrease stress. Levels of oxytocin (the “feel-good” hormone) rise in the brain, just from petting or snuggling an animal friend. Pets can also reduce isolation by promoting human connection and real-life social networks. According to this survey conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health, “pet owners were 60% more likely than non–pet owners to get to know people in their neighborhoods they hadn’t known before.” Caring for a pet can have not just mental and emotional but physical benefits as well. For example, taking a dog out for daily walks helps people to meet their exercise needs.

Julie Barton’s new memoir, Dog Medicine: How My Dog Saved me from Myself, provides a personal and poignant glimpse into how her relationship with her dog helped her recover from life-threatening depression. In this interview with Mashable, Barton explains: “Nothing helped until I adopted a golden retriever puppy that I named Bunker…the first morning I woke up with him by my side, I knew I had something to live for.”

Here are some resources for further exploration: