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The Role Of Pets in The Healing Process.

Updated on December 2, 2020
Jodah profile image

John is a nature and animal lover. He now has cats, a dog, hens, and various backyard visitors.

Coco, reluctantly having photo taken.
Coco, reluctantly having photo taken. | Source

A Home For Amber.

About four years ago we arrived home from a day in town, began to unload the groceries from the car, and as usual were greeted with loud yips and barks from our three dogs, Coco, Pearl, and Rolly.

Only this time, there were four.

We had somehow obtained a new addition to the family, a small amber coloured Pomeranian. I looked at my wife a little puzzled, and she looked the same. Normally our dogs wouldn't let any other dog or cat anywhere near the property. But here was the new visitor, with them, and acting like she'd been here for years, and already part of the family. Even our four cats didn't issue a challenge.

After we unpacked the car I had a closer inspection of the visitor and confirmed the dog was female, in rather poor condition and covered in fleas and ticks. Wherever she had been living, it was obvious she had not been well cared for.

Amazing Proof of the Healing Power of Animals

Now, came the ethical dilemma. We had an idea where her previous home was. There was a property some two kilometres away where Pomeranians were bred. The owners had about 20 dogs, and we had sometimes seen one or two straying onto the road in front of their gate when we'd driven past. Their neighbours were friends of ours and had given us bad reports, such as the dogs being kept inside the house, faeces everywhere, howling all hours of the night. Then,there was the obvious poor condition of the dog in our possession. If she was from there, she had clearly been badly treated.

After consideration, we decided not to approach the couple we thought she had belonged to. She had found her way to our house, if she wanted to go back where she came from she was free to do that. We did agree though, that should someone advertise in the newspaper or on the radio for a lost dog meeting her description and in the same area, that we would reply.

The clincher, however, for not approaching the couple we thought to be the previous owners, was some information we received that they were in the habit of sending their dogs interstate to have them de-barked (removal of their voice box) so they would make less noise. This process is illegal in our state of Queensland.

Roly, the Marema
Roly, the Marema | Source

Part Of The Family

I spent hours removing the hundreds of ticks and then bathing her in a flea and tick wash and brushing her as well. She soon looked like a new dog.

We tried to call her by a few common dog names that came to mind but she wouldn't come to any, although she was starving and the mere whiff of food had her running. "Amber" was the name we gave her (due to her colouring) at least temporarily, in case someone did claim her.

By the end of the week she was still with us, and had begun to respond to her new name, and even began to bark with the others if someone arrived at the property. This allayed our suspicion that Amber had been de-barked, and It was like she'd lived here for years.

Well, no one else ever claimed her so Amber remained part of our family. Other dogs came and went over the next two years. Pearl, a shih tzu/chihuahua cross, went missing one night, never to return, and Rolly, a marema (large Italian sheepdog), died in unfortunate circumstances. A few months later we were told of a couple of pedigree miniature poodles who needed a new home, and so we aquired Jackson (Belissima Black Knight)and Ginger (Franelle Gingerbelle).

The poodles, Jackson and Ginger.
The poodles, Jackson and Ginger. | Source

Loving and Grieving

Jackson and Ginger were both four years old when we took them in, and had had two litters of puppies together before. However, while Jackson was still intact, Ginger had been spayed after her last litter. We had no idea how old Amber was when she came to stay with us, but the fact that she was missing some teeth, and seemed to have arthritis in one back leg suggested she was far from a puppy.

All was fine until one day Amber 'came on heat'. Jackson ditched his previous poodle love Ginger, and fell head over heels in love anew, with the Pomeranian, Amber. We couldn't keep them apart.

In mid 2010 Amber gave birth to two pups (after a long and difficult labour, ably assisted by my wife, Kathy). One however was not breathing and could not be revived, so she was left with one healthy bouncing girl puppy. A poodle x pomeranian is called a 'pompoo', though it has not been officially recognised as a breed yet, unlike the 'labradoodle'.

We needed to find a home for the new addition and began to ask around. Some friends of ours had an old fox terrier, Harry, who had been in ailing health, almost deaf and partially blind. They were having to consider having him put down so he wouldn't have to suffer. We offered them the puppy to replace their other dog and to ease the pain a little when they had to do the inevitable.

They were reluctant at first, but eventually agreed, and six weeks later Amber's pup found a new home. They named her Ebony, and from the time they took her home, Harry gained a new lease of life having a pup to play with. He lasted another six months and was much more content. Having already had the new dog settle into the household helped shorten the grieving process for the loss of their other beloved pet.

Just born.
Just born. | Source

Spike's Arrival

Another year passed, and my wife had become friends with another woman through an Internet Craft group. After getting to know each other and swapping various crafts, knitted items, yarns etc., Kathy found out that her friend had cancer and had been suffering from the disease for some time. For privacy reasons I will not reveal the friend's real name, but let's call her Sarah.

Kathy and I at the time were President and Secretary of Hope Bears Queensland, a charity that co-ordinates the making of teddy bears, knee rugs, chemo caps, socks etc for people suffering from cancer. We supplied a few such items to Sarah.

Sarah and her husband Steven are in there mid 30s, but have never been able to have children. They live in an apartment complex in Sydney, with a 14 year old cat Felix. Sarah's mother had been concerned for her daughter's health and uncertain prognosis, and suggested they should get another pet. It would help take Sarah's mind off her illness, and if the worst-case scenario should happen, then her husband Steven would still have something to love and care for.

In October 2011, Amber surprisingly gave birth to a single puppy. We hadn't even realized that she was pregnant and thought she would be too old now to conceive. Once again Jackson, the poodle, was the father. Another long and difficult birth, but the result one rather large boy pup. Kathy immediately thought of her friend Sarah, and asked her if they would like to give this new pup a home. We thought giving a live puppy would be a whole different level to providing a stuffed teddy bear or knee rug.

She emailed them photos, and they fell in love, agreeing excitedly to the suggestion. They even decided on a name, "Spike", which we started to call him from that moment on.

Ebony.How cute am I?
Ebony.How cute am I? | Source

Bound For Sydney

Spike's vaccinations were arranged and I booked flights for Kathy and I and the pup to fly to Sydney when he turned six weeks old and could leave his mother.

Steven met us at the airport and I could almost see a tear in his eye when we handed Spike to him. He placed the tiny black dog on his lap as he drove us to his house to also meet Sarah for the first time.

Although it was the first time we'd met it seemed as though we had known each other for years. Sarah fell in love with Spike immediately, and they quickly bonded. When we got back to the hotel, Kathy and I smiled at each other, feeling so satisfied that what we'd brought about. When our stay was over and Steven drove us back to the airport, he couldn't thank us enough. He was amazed in the change in Sarah after just two days of having Spike in the house.

Curious cat.
Curious cat. | Source
Amber and Spike.
Amber and Spike. | Source

Do you think pets/animals..?

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What a long flight!
What a long flight! | Source

The Healing

Almost two years have passed since we delivered Spike to his new 'parents' in Sydney. Sarah and Steven treat him like a child, and he even gets on with the old cat, Tom. Unfortunately Sarah's mother has since passed away, but her last request was to have Spike at her bedside. This wish was granted.

The best news of all is that Sarah's cancer is now in remission. Steven says that having a dog has given her an extra reason to live, and it has even made their relationship stronger. Has having Spike to love and care for been responsible for Sarah's remission? Who knows for sure, but it definitely hasn't been detrimental to her health.

This all came to be as a result of a small runaway Pomeranian that decided to choose us as her new family. Some things are just meant to be.

Amber in 2013 (since deceased)
Amber in 2013 (since deceased) | Source

© 2013 John Hansen


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    • Jodah profile imageAUTHOR

      John Hansen 

      5 years ago from Gondwana Land

      Hi Peg, thank you for reading this personal story about the power of animals to change lives. There has been a lot happen since I wrote this, the saddest of which was probably Amber's passing away. But she did have good years with us and enrich the lives of ourselves and others.

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 

      5 years ago from North Dallas, Texas

      This story of compassion and kindness started my morning off with a smile. Although Amber had a rough start to her life, you have provided her with an example of acceptance and love, even romance. She has been fortunate to become part of your family, thankfully, a happy outcome after years of neglect.

      I loved the story of Sarah and Stephen, a testimony to the healing power of animals. Thank you for sharing these experiences.

    • Phyllis Doyle profile image

      Phyllis Doyle Burns 

      6 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

      You are most welcome, Jodah. Thank you for the good wishes for my Marvin. He is happy, frisky and very affectionate - rarely more than a few feet from me. Last night he begged and begged for some of my dinner. He knew it was noodles with a little butter and he loves that. He ate one little bowl of noodles and was very content.

    • Jodah profile imageAUTHOR

      John Hansen 

      6 years ago from Gondwana Land

      Thanks so much for reading this old hub Phyllis.. I believe in sharing them from time to time as there is always someone who missed reading them the first time. Your kind comment is much appreciated. Hope your dear little pom Marvin is doing well.

    • Phyllis Doyle profile image

      Phyllis Doyle Burns 

      6 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

      My goodness, Jodah - I thought this was a brand new hub and it is not. I am surprised I missed it before. This is such a wonderful story about your precious pets and how much they help in healing. It is not surprising that your friend Sarah was helped so much with the gift of Spike.

      Your beautiful little Amber looks just like my little Pom, Marvin. I rescued him two years ago and it seems like he has always been with me. He is 13 years old and happy in his forever home - he has adopted my whole family and everyone spoils him with so much love and attention, but, he deserves it.

      I absolutely loved reading about your dog family members. I felt so much a part of it all because of the way you write with heart and compassion. You and Kathy are so loving it is no wonder that a sweet little stray would want to make a home with you.

      Thank you so much for sharing this story.

    • Jodah profile imageAUTHOR

      John Hansen 

      6 years ago from Gondwana Land

      Thanks for the kind coment Mary, and vote up and share. We can never turn away a stray. I feel they found us for a reason.

    • Jodah profile imageAUTHOR

      John Hansen 

      6 years ago from Gondwana Land

      Whonu, I agree that our pets are a true gift for us. I cannot remember at time when we didn't have at least one dog and cat.

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 

      6 years ago from Florida

      I loved reading about your four legged friends. My little dog, Baby, is so much a part of my life. I'd be so lost without her.

      You have a big heart to help with animals who need a good home and some love.

      Voted UP and shared here and on Google+

    • whonunuwho profile image


      6 years ago from United States

      Our pets are a gift that we are so blessed to have. Nice work my friend..,whonu

    • Jodah profile imageAUTHOR

      John Hansen 

      7 years ago from Gondwana Land

      Thanks for reading and your kind comment and vote up Bk42.

    • Bk42author profile image

      Brenda Thornlow 

      7 years ago from New York

      I fully believe animals play a big part in healing. The unconditional love they shower us with does wonders just for your mood alone. Love this pics...all adorable, especially Ebony! Voted up!

    • Jodah profile imageAUTHOR

      John Hansen 

      7 years ago from Gondwana Land

      Thanks for your kind words klidstone, yes animals are a better judge of character than most people. My dogs are very friendly so if they take a dislike to someone I know not to trust that person.

    • klidstone1970 profile image

      இڿڰۣ-- кιмвєяℓєу 

      7 years ago from Niagara Region, Canada

      People are not the only ones who choose which animal to share their life with, as Amber has clearly shown you, for she had handpicked your family and blessed your life with many wonderful memories. I had worked in a veterinarian office for 5 years and have witnessed the bond between animals and their human family many times. Blessings to you for your large heart and helping when help is needed.

    • Jodah profile imageAUTHOR

      John Hansen 

      7 years ago from Gondwana Land

      Thank you Eric, much appreciated.

    • Jodah profile imageAUTHOR

      John Hansen 

      7 years ago from Gondwana Land

      Thank you Eric, much appreciated.

    • Eric Flynn profile image

      Eric Wayne Flynn 

      7 years ago from Providence, Rhode Island

      Great story, you and your wife did a great thing. More people like y'all are needed.


    • Jodah profile imageAUTHOR

      John Hansen 

      7 years ago from Gondwana Land

      Thank you for your kind words Faith. Yes I agree pets are a blessing to any family. Can't imagine life without them. Our dogs are all starting to get on in years. I always rue the day when we lose one also. Thanks for voting up and sharing too.

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 

      7 years ago from southern USA

      Beautiful story of healing. You have a good heart. We have had many pets over the years, and they have all been a blessing to our family. It is hard when we lose one.

      Thank you for sharing this heartfelt story.

      Up and more and sharing

      Hugs, Faith Reaper

    • Jodah profile imageAUTHOR

      John Hansen 

      7 years ago from Gondwana Land

      Good to meet another dog lover ShyeAnne. Yes dogs are amazing healers..thank you for you kind comments.

    • ShyeAnne profile image


      7 years ago from Deep Bay, British Columbia, Canada

      The amazing healing power of dogs. I love my doggy to pieces. Awesome story Jodah.

    • Jodah profile imageAUTHOR

      John Hansen 

      7 years ago from Gondwana Land

      Thank you Jackie, yes I agree, pet do tend to imitate their owners....good/good, bad/bad. I hope we are the former, as I'm sure you are. Glad you enjoyed the story.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 

      7 years ago from the beautiful south

      Such a beautiful story. It really is sometimes like our pets are human too, lol and they certainly are a blessing. It takes good people to raise good animals though, isn't that true? Mean people have mean animals just as they do kids. Sorry to go off into seventh field, just a thought. lol Yours all are adorable.

    • Jodah profile imageAUTHOR

      John Hansen 

      7 years ago from Gondwana Land

      Ah drbj, so that's what's happening. There's a mark on the You could be right. Anyway thanks for visiting and your kind comment.

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 

      7 years ago from south Florida

      Fascinating story, Jodah. Do you know that years ago hobos in the U.S. would place a mark on the doors of homes where the owners were good people and would share a meal with them. I would not be surprised if you have a mark that can be seen by stray canines.

    • Jodah profile imageAUTHOR

      John Hansen 

      7 years ago from Gondwana Land

      Thank you wetnosedogs,

      I knew you could relate to this.

    • wetnosedogs profile image


      7 years ago from Alabama

      How heartwarming this is. Animals sure do do how to open a person's heart and help their health.

    • Jodah profile imageAUTHOR

      John Hansen 

      7 years ago from Gondwana Land

      Thanks for your kind comment Mel. Yes, she fit right in, and has more than paid her way.

    • Jodah profile imageAUTHOR

      John Hansen 

      7 years ago from Gondwana Land

      Glad you liked this tale Flourish, yes, we are suckers for sad eyed strays and runaways. Even our original cat Cleo(mother and grandmother of our current crop) was found at the rubbish tip abandoned. Yes the cat just endured the puppy..."not another dog".

    • Jodah profile imageAUTHOR

      John Hansen 

      7 years ago from Gondwana Land

      Thank you Joelle, glad you could take your cat with you to Canada. I can understand you choosing it over Australia as 6 month quarantine does seem excessive. I don't really have a preference between dogs and cats. They both give so much, but in different ways. Thanks also for voting up.

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 

      7 years ago from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado

      Fabulous story and very well written. You were right to take Amber in.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      7 years ago from USA

      Great story. You've got a good heart to take in animals who need you. They do reward us with health benefits, companionship and entertainment. I'm so glad Amber had a happy ending. I especially like the photo of your cat and the newborn pup. Looks like the annoyed cat is saying, "Aww, Gawd.." I love the expression.

    • kidscrafts profile image


      7 years ago from Ottawa, Canada

      What a beautiful hub! Your little Amber is a real gift to you and others with her two litters!

      When we moved from Belgium to Canada, we took our cat with us. In fact we thought of moving to Australia at one point but the 6 months quarantine made us think about Canada where there is no quarantine.

      Cats and dogs (and other animals) can bring so much in the lives of people! Thank you for sharing this hub!

      Voted up, interesting, beautiful and awesome!

    • Jodah profile imageAUTHOR

      John Hansen 

      7 years ago from Gondwana Land

      It takes one to know one Kim. Your comments are very important to me. I'm glad you can relate to this and I would love to hear your own stores in regard to your animals. Our cats are Fanny, Phoebe, Humphrey and Basil, the dogs already mentioned here. Thank you for your kind support and the vote up and share.

    • ocfireflies profile image


      7 years ago from North Carolina


      There is no doubt in my mind, you and your wife are angels. Beautiful story, and one I can relate to in so many ways. Similar events have happened with me. Right now, I am down to two dogs, Bill and Jinga and one cat, Cosmo. V+/Shared.


    • Jodah profile imageAUTHOR

      John Hansen 

      7 years ago from Gondwana Land

      Thanks Eric,

      Haha, yes love me love my dog.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      7 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Just a great story and very well told friend. Spreading the love one dog at a time!!

    • Jodah profile imageAUTHOR

      John Hansen 

      7 years ago from Gondwana Land

      Thanks Bill, My pleasure for sharing. I too have always had dogs in my life, and can't imagine life without them. They offer unconditional love and companionship.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      7 years ago from Olympia, WA

      A wonderful story of healing my friend. I have had dogs all my life and I understand this very well. Thank you for sharing.

    • Jodah profile imageAUTHOR

      John Hansen 

      7 years ago from Gondwana Land

      Thank you Your Cousins,

      That's a wonderful story about letting the neighbor share your cat "Kitty". We also had another dog who was adopted by an elderly neighbor. Whenever she went missing we knew where she'd be. The lady lived alone and appreciated our dogs company. She even bought special treats for her.

    • Your Cousins profile image

      Your Cousins 

      7 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Lovely story. A few years ago, our cat wandered into the yard of a neighbor who had just lost her mother. By the time we found her, the neighbor had fallen in love with "Kitty" and the cat reciprocated. We felt that she really needed the company, so we agreed to share our cat. "Kitty" has passed on now, but the neighbor told us that having "Kitty" around excelerated the healing process for her.

    • Jodah profile imageAUTHOR

      John Hansen 

      7 years ago from Gondwana Land

      Thank you Frank for you kind words. Amber is still doing well. I think she may be finally past having pups, and she gets arthritis during the cold winter months, but just keeps keeping on. She is very loyal and loving, and part of the family as are all the dogs, and cats.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 

      7 years ago from Shelton

      I have so much respect for people like you who take in stray dogs and give them homes.. How is Amber doing? I bet after the flea and tick bath she remains loyal.. losing dogs after the love begins always hurt.. they do oddly become a big part of ones family.. all the blessing to you Jodah :)


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