Article and Photos by Marianne A. Campolongo
Nothing is better after a long day at work or school than coming home to a pet at your door. Whether it’s a dog wagging her tail and waiting to join you on a walk outside or a cat purring as he rubs against your legs waiting for you to pick him up, when you have a pet, coming home is always a treat.
Whether you have a dog or a cat, exotic fish or birds, or some other creature, your home is never empty when you have a pet.
Pet ownership has “a number of benefits,” according to Dr. Mary Padilla, a veterinarian who has owned North Castle Veterinary Hospital in Armonk for more than 30 years. “For some people, it’s companionship; for some people, it’s structure. It’s an easy relationship. There is not as much emotional stuff going on. It can be an undemanding, non-judgmental situation,” she said.
She said that pets are great for children as they both tend to be more “in the moment.” She added, with a laugh, “It’s someone else to blame when something is broken.”
Dr. Padilla said, “Research has been done about the benefits of touch. For some people, it’s the only contact that they have,” she added, stressing that the calming aspects of touch provide both physical and emotional benefits for those of all ages.
“We are an animal ourselves. They [pets] make a family complete.” –Jim Dempsey
Besides treating all kinds of animals in her daily veterinary practice, Dr. Padilla has a small menagerie at home. In addition to two cats, DD and Ludie, she has a small flock of finches in a flight cage, a large piece of furniture filled with plants and birds. It allows them to really stretch their wings. “Birds are social. They like to be with other birds,” she said. Adding to the mix, her husband has two large tanks filled with tropical fish.
Kristen Rice is the Executive Director of Adopt-A-Dog, a non-profit rescue and animal shelter that began in Greenwich, Connecticut in 1981, but has been housed in Armonk since 2002. Though the shelter has housed and found homes for cats as well as dogs in the past, it is currently home to about 35 dogs of all ages seeking homes. “I’m very blessed to have a job I don’t dread going to. I love my work, being around dogs and people who love dogs too,” she said.
Owning a pet “is an opportunity for parents to teach their kids about being kind and respectful, being able to enjoy the presence of someone else in the world,” Rice said. Echoing Dr. Padilla she continued, “There’s no judgment, just natural play. They have a lot of fun together and they’re also buddies.”
Rice has three senior dogs, ages 14-17, that she adopted from the shelter: Kirby, Jillian, and Rusty.
Tyler Zuckerman owns Pleasant Grooming of Armonk with his father, Stu. His dog Nike, a Golden Retriever, comes to work with him each day, greeting customers and acting as the store’s mascot. In addition to grooming, they sell accessories, run a dog training school, a doggie day care, and also connect customers with dog breeders to help them find the right pet. His father has a Cockapoo which he rescued eight years ago. All-in-all, Tyler has had nine dogs over the years, one of whom used to pick him up from the bus stop. “It was a good thing growing up with dogs,” he said. Despite taking Claritin daily due to an allergy to dogs, he wouldn’t be without one in his life.
Armonk resident Jim Dempsey is the editor and publisher of Pet Gazette, a pet magazine he and his wife have published in Armonk since 1998. They now publish four editions of the magazine in Westchester, Long Island, Fairfield, and New York City.
Dempsey said that bringing a pet into your home “is a connection to the natural world. We share the earth with them. We are an animal ourselves. They make a family complete. I’ll never forget watching my cat give birth. I was probably eight years old. Wow! That taught me more about life. That’s just unbelievable. Having a pet in a family allows a family to understand caring for something other than themselves. For a child to understand that in life, it’s important. Especially these days, a pet forces you to put that technology down.” Currently, Dempsey gets his pet fix by playing with a neighbor’s dog. “I just lost the best dog I ever had,” he said. “I’ve had every pet–birds, cats, dogs, bunnies.” He is considering getting a pair of Great Danes, but needs time to mourn the loss of his dog. Pets truly become a member of the family, and their loss can be difficult due to the depth of the bond between human and pet.
This bond is one of the great benefits of bringing a pet into your home. “The beautiful thing about Great Danes–they have a short lifespan–I’m 60 now so since we’re in a transition period I’m thinking about how long I’ll be able to chase after a dog,” said Dempsey.
Dempsey, Rice, and Zuckerman all stressed that people need to think about finding pets that are suitable for their stage in life, their children’s ages, and temperaments. “Because I work so much, having older dogs is good,” said Rice. They sleep all day and just need a shorter walk. I can give them a nice quiet place to spend their golden years. For my lifestyle an older dog is great. If I had kids and was home more, I’d look into a younger dog.”
Adopt-A-Dog always aims to have a mix of dogs of all ages, Rice said, to meet the needs of those looking to adopt. Zuckerman said, “We locate dogs for people from various breeders around the country. Do they have kids, how many, are they active, do the kids have allergies? There’s a lot of different things to look into. They become part of the family.”
When you bring an animal home, said Rice, you will receive “a lifetime of unconditional love. The companionship is unparalleled in my opinion. It’s not just a pet, it’s a member of your family. For me coming home to my dogs makes me happy. It’s just an amazing experience. Overall the experience is just one of happiness.”
Marianne Campolongo is a freelance writer and photographer from Chappaqua. She has had six cats, two dogs and a variety of fish in her life. Having recently lost two cats after 14 years, she gets her pet fix enjoying her daughter’s two new kittens. Visit campyphotos.com.