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Doctors say pets worthy of devotion

April 28th, 2003, 12:00 AM
Doctors say pets worthy of devotion
By Mark Caudill
News Journal

Even though he is a veterinarian, John Shuler has trouble believing people's devotion to their pets.

To illustrate his point, Shuler referred to a recent survey that asked veterinary clients how much money they would spend on their pets.

"The drop-off point reached about $4,000 to $5,000," said Shuler, who works at Horizon Animal Hospital Inc. in Galion. "Up until that, they were willing to forego getting to eat or making a car payment.

"Eighty-five percent would spend that without even blinking. Pets are luxury items -- we could spend that income on something else.

"That shows how strong that bond is," Shuler said. "It's just amazing."

Donald Kaeser, a veterinarian at the Claremont Veterinary Clinic in Ashland, said pets are worth it.

"Animals do respond to love and affection," he said. "They're there 24/7 for their owners. They ask nothing except to be cared for."

Kaeser said he has been especially impressed by the bonds between children and their pets.

"In a lot of cases, a pet gives the child a lot of security," he said. "It also gives the kids a lot of love and attention. Animals bond pretty easy with kids for the most part.

"Not only do they bond with them, they protect them. They mean so much to the kid."

Kaeser recounted the story of a dog saving a child from drowning.

"This dog dove in and grabbed the back of that sweatshirt," he said. "He was swimming back toward the shore.

"The dog had no training for it -- it was just instinct. It was unbelievable."

Retired Dr. William Schamadan has seen bonds form between older people and their pets.

"The pet does carry with it a responsibility," he said. "There's a reason why you have to get up; there's a reason you have to get out. It gives some worth to their being."

Schamadan said animals also help the elderly socially.

"Older people who have lost some of their contacts, the fact that there is a pet is a real social interaction for them," he said. "Their company helps them avoid depression."

Schamadan called pets a "very uplifting, non-medical antidepressant."

The bond a pet feels for its owner can be just as strong, Kaeser said, recalling a dog that mourned when its owner died. The man had a hospital bed set up in his room for his last days.

"The animal was not satisfied until it was let back in the room where the man passed away," he said. "The dog went over and laid where the man would have been laying. He laid there for about half an hour, and then he was fine."