Sometimes you have to stop and pet the dog

Just Life By Marie D'Angelo, PharmD

Whether it’s their hilarity, devotion, or quirky personalities, pets make our lives brighter. As a dog owner myself, I know that even after my toughest workday, my dog will cheer me up when I get home. As  New Practitioners, we not only experience stressful days at work, but also must balance the growth of our careers with the evolution of our personal lives. There can be so much going on in a single day, week, month, or year that we can get burnt out without realizing it. The effects of our busy schedules on our bodies and minds have to be tamed (yes, pun intended) with activities that promote positivity and wellness.

Much has been written on how pets can decrease stress, improve well-being, and may even prolong life expectancy. The importance of a furry companion cannot be overstated in the very stressful life of a New Practitioner. Instead of continuing in unspecific terms, I’ll share some stories from other animal-loving New Practitioners:

A napping buddy
The life of Amanda Cavness, PharmD, changed for the better one day in 2010 when an unfamiliar black dog showed up on her doorstep. After being unable to find the dog’s home, Amanda’s family took in the lab/chow mix and named her “Madden.” Amanda said, “Throughout pharmacy school and residency, Madden has made my life better every day. Sometimes it’s hard to find motivation to get moving, especially during residency, but Madden makes sure I go on at least a short walk most days!

Known to be a great napping buddy, Madden is there for Amanda when she’s had a great, hard, or emotional day at work. “Madden welcomes me at the door with a wagging tail and doggy kisses, and my spirit is instantly lifted,” Amanda added.

As a PGY2 at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, DC, Amanda cares deeply for her patients and even hopes that someday Madden can be trained to work with her as a therapy dog!

New friend magnet
APhA New Practitioner Advisory Committee Chair Sara Wettergreen, PharmD, BCACP, adopted her dog “Max,” a terrier mix, from a shelter in Texas a year ago. Since then, Sara has moved from Texas to Colorado, where she is an Assistant Professor at the University of Colorado Skaggs School of Pharmacy. Embracing an entirely new job and community can be stressful, but Max has been a big help.

“Adopting my dog Max was one of the best decisions I have made,” Sara said. “He brings joy to my life each day through companionship, snuggles, and his energetic spirit. One benefit of having a dog that I didn't think of before adopting is the social aspect. I have made many friends at dog parks and in my community from taking Max out for walks!”

Next level de-stressing
In Virginia, New Practitioners Jon Lee, PharmD, and Angela Olenik, PharmD, BCPS, take de-stressing with pets to a whole new level. Yoga is a great way to relax, but Jon and Angela like to share their exercise time with kittens and puppies! Angela said, “[The yoga] was sponsored and held at a local animal rescue group. The profits all support the animal rescue. The idea is to have kittens (or puppies) attend the program to play and socialize. All kittens were available for adoption. It was super cute and tons of fun!”

Social media star
Some pets can have big personalities in tiny packages. Kristin Showen’s, PharmD, tiny Pomeranian “Chip” is a social media darling with tons of energy. Chip not only considers himself photogenic but an integral part of the family. He’s often seen posing with Kristin and her fiancé, assisting with work and conference calls, and even helping out in the kitchen!

My pet story
One of my biggest life decisions as a New Practitioner was buying a condo, but getting a dog was one of my easiest decisions. Much like Amanda, my Pembroke Welsh corgi “Ziva” came into my life suddenly in a right-place–right-time chance meeting. I met Ziva when I was supposed to adopt one of her puppies, but I fell in love with her instead! More than a year later, I can’t imagine my life without her. I actually don’t even want to—it would be too stressful!

As a community pharmacist, my days can be long and hectic, but when I come home to Ziva, she wiggles her behind (she has no tail) and welcomes me home with love. Walking her along the beach after a long day of work has had such calming effects on my health and well-being. Ziva’s companionship is the best way for me to dial down my busy life and stop and smell the roses or, in this case, stop and pet the dog!

Whether your day has been good or bad or whether you’re feeling up or down, a pet doesn’t care—they love and support you anyway. Sometimes that extra bit of love can be essential to keeping your life grounded. If you are considering getting a pet, my advice is to absolutely take the leap. You have no idea how good for you it will be.