Assistant Opinions Editor Gabby Pardo’s pet dog basks in the sun. Pets of all sizes and species are known to improve the health and social lives of their owners. GABBY PARDO/THE STATESMAN

When I come home from college, I get a glimpse of joy when my pug greets me at the door wagging his tail looking for cuddles and scratches. Yes, he may be needy with all of the walks and playtime that he craves. But his and other pets’ neediness proves to make my family and other pet owners healthier than those who don’t own a pet. Approximately 85 million American households have a pet. According to the National Center for Health Research, those with pets can experience lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol and more social support than those without.  

I’ve come across people who’ve looked sideways at me when I brag about how amazing my pug is; it may come across almost as if he’s the holy grail in my house. He is adorable, but he’s definitely more than just a cuddle buddy. My dog has seen me smile, laugh, cry, scream and stress, yet he has managed to never fail as a companion. I can feel like the whole world is against me, but I know he will always be there for me to pet or curl up with even if I’m the one who messed up in a situation.

My dad has high blood pressure. He can come home from a long day of work and his mood will make a 360 when he pets my dog and watches TV with him.

Unfortunately, there are people who roam the world hating animals or despise the idea of having a pet, or feel having a pet is too much responsibility. However, the responsibilities of feeding them, walking them, changing the litter boxes or fish tank filters makes us get off our lazy butts and be productive. There’s something about doing a task so small in your day that adds a sense of accomplishment.  

Young adults are also included in the pool of people that benefit from owning a pet. Stony Brook students, specifically,  have the opportunity to interact with furry friends right on campus. The university offers a special animal-based therapeutic program from Counseling and Psychological Services called PALS (Pet Away Life Stress). The goal of the program is to eliminate stress among Stony Brook students through simply engaging with therapy dogs. It gives students a pet to befriend when they’re not home and, for those who don’t own one, a feeling of a furry companion. The PALS information page states that animal interactions reduce stress, blood pressure and anxiety, emphasizing the purpose of the program.

Why would you take five minutes out of your day to pet a random dog? Your mind can burden you with all of the things you have to do: study for biology, apply for that scholarship, go to work. Petting one of the PALS dogs will give you five minutes of time away from the stress. You can look at the cuddly creatures and interact with someone who senses you need them.

Having a pet can be expensive, but the health benefits, loyalty and companionship outweigh the cost. A pet doesn’t necessarily mean a dog or cat; having a non-human companion is as easy as spending a few dollars on a goldfish for your dorm. My family may have a dog, but that’s only because we’re dog people. It’s important to have a pet, but make sure it’s the right one for you.

Next time you greet your pet, make sure to give them a little extra love for making you a healthier and better you.