Assistant Opinions Editor Gabby Pardo’s pet dog basks in the sun. Sixty-eight percent of U.S. households have a pet, according to the 2017-2018 National Pet Owners Survey. GABBY PARDO/STATESMAN FILE

We all have that special someone in our lives. Whether it be a best friend, family member or significant other, they’re here for us when we need them most. Then there’s that special someone that shows us the greatest amount of love without saying a word. That’s right — I’m talking about pets.

Whether they bark, meow or hiss, pets give you the kind of unconditional love you rarely get from a human. It might seem weird to people without any pets, but that furry friend can have a huge impact on a person’s health and well-being. There’s plenty of medical data to support just how important pets can be.

Sixty-eight percent of U.S. households have a pet. Even though owning a pet can be expensive, the security and comfort of having an animal can boost your well-being. Owning a cat or dog increases your chances of surviving a heart attack, according to Harvard University Medical School. Owning a pet can actually help lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels, which would otherwise increase the chances of getting heart disease.

Owning an animal can also help alleviate stress and fight depression. When you interact with your pets, your blood pressure lowers and serotonin and dopamine levels in your brain increase, giving you feelings of satisfaction and security. Studies have even shown that people recover from stress more quickly when they interact with their pets than with family members or friends, according to The Washington Post. The use of emotional support animals (ESAs) proves this point. ESAs, which consist mostly of dogs, are used to help people with a disability if they need assistance. They are used by veterans with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and others with a disability that requires assistance through otherwise stressful or triggering situations. Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) offers pet therapy sessions called the PALS Program: Pet Away Life Stress, where you can pet animals to help relieve stress and anxiety, lower your heart rate and help you feel more loved.

Over the summer, my family lost our four-year-old Staffordshire Bull Terrier unexpectedly. Shaka was everything to us. We’ll never forget him taking my father’s socks, begging for our food and barking at strangers walking past our house. Our house was a completely different place after Shaka passed. When people walked by our house, there was silence. When my mother cooked ribs for dinner, there was no begging. When my father left his socks on the floor, there was no taking. When I came home from doing volunteer work, there was no one to greet me. It was the weirdest part of my life; there was no one to comfort us if we had a hard day. Shaka wasn’t just a pet to us — he was part of our family.

Two weeks later, my parents and I went over to our local animal shelter and we adopted a four-year-old St. Bernard-Pitbull mix, Bear. Bear is our new homie, but we will never forget about Shaka, who will always be our forever homie.