Robotic Pets Just Don’t Do The Trick

This write up comes to us from a visitor to the site, thanks Nancy!

U.S. News and World Report recently reported that robotic pets may have the same health benefits as real live animals. At this very moment I am sitting at my kitchen counter with Jack (the Lab/poodle mix that we mistakenly bought as a Labradoodle) and Barkley (a 120 lb. German Shepherd) nestled as close as they can get at my feet. It is storming outside – one of those storms that occurs with violent regularity during Spring in the Midwest. There is crashing thunder, torrential rain and marble size hail.

Every time there is a crash of thunder both dogs look up at me, worried, but comforted by my touch on their heads. Later, when I get into bed, they will both be there – either right next to the bed or squeezed in between my husband and me. I am their protector. And that’s okay. Because if I needed their protection, they would be there for me, ready to fight any intruder to keep me out of harm’s way.

Is there a robotic pet that will do that? Is there a robotic pet that looks at you with soulful brown eyes that speak volumes about her love and dedication to you? Is there a robotic pet that whines his empathy when you’re grieving, and licks your tears away when you cry? Is there a robotic pet that gets so excited when you return home after a few days away that he pees himself and in the process, your new hand-looped rug? Aside from the peeing, I can’t imagine living without the multitude of benefits my pets offer me.

Pets help lower our blood pressure, speed healing and reduce the stress hormone, cortisol. A recent study at the UCLA Medical Center, showed that dogs provided more anxiety- reducing benefits to heart-failure patients than the presence of their human loved ones. Dogs keep us active – walking them, playing tug of war with them, cleaning the pee out of the rug. Dogs make us feel secure when we’re alone. Dogs give us absolute unconditional love.

I’ve been raising children for 40 years now. I started early and wrapped up late (my oldest son was born when I was 17, and my daughter was adopted when I was 42). I know when I am finally child-free I will have a tremendous void in my life. But I’ve also always had pets, and pets help fill voids better than anything I know.

There are so many things to look forward to as we regain our freedom. We can pursue all the interests we didn’t have time for, travel to all the places our kids didn’t want to go, and enjoy the restfulness of solitude. But we nurturers don’t really want to give up our most important role entirely. And we don’t want to run the risk of facing loneliness or boredom as our lives change.

For people who can no longer care for a pet, or as therapy for patients in residential facilities, I guess a robotic pet is better than no pet at all. But as long as I can throw a stick and sanitize my rugs, real live pets will be in my life – and in my home.

Footnote: To all cat lovers – I in no way mean to be discriminatory toward our feline friends. I would also much rather have a real live cat than a kitty-robot.

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