Animals and Athletes

For my entire living memory, I have had animals in my home in Australia where I grew up.

Although I haven’t got any pets with me here in Canada during my stay here as a University student and athlete, I’m always happy to see animal activity in the backyard or on campus.

Although I am studying psychology at UVic, I was studying animal behaviour as well as psychology at home, so perhaps I have more of an eye and biased positive opinion towards having animals around than my fellow athletes, but I still think we can be more appreciative of their presence and the ways they can help us excel in our sport of choice.

Whether they are your best mate and closest companion, or whether they are wild and unconcerned by your presence, I have outlined some of the reasons below:

1. Unconditional love

Pet Cafe at the Interfaith Chapel

So much of how we perceive ourselves as athletes or people in general rides on the back of success or failure in tasks that often have material worth to a select group of people. Others tend to judge us on these failures and successes, too, but not animals.

Pets’ opinion of you remains stable if you treat them with respect. They love you unconditionally when you walk in the door no matter what times you were going in practice or whether your team won or lost, no matter how you played.

When I was at home in Australia recently, I got to spend time with the family chocolate Labrador, and she definitely didn’t seem to concerned with the results of my races while I was there.

“I think I could turn and live with the animals, they are so placid and self contained;

I stand and look at them long and long.

They do not sweat and whine about their condition;

They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins;

They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God;

Not one is dissatisfied-not one is demented with the mania of owning things;

Not one kneels to another, nor his kind that lived thousands of years ago;

Not one is responsible or industrious over the whole earth.” ― Walt Whitman

2. They’re amazing

Bicky, my family’s chocolate lab

Whether you spend some time outside watching the birds in your backyard, or you sit down and watch a few David Attenborough documentaries, there’s no denying that animals amaze us.

It might be their colours, their athleticism, or their abilities that we can only imagine, but I think it’s worthwhile to take some time to be amazed by something other than other people and athletes.

My teammate worked at a fish hatchery for salmon over the summer and witnessed wild salmon swimming upstream, which is interesting to watch being swimmers ourselves.

“Some people talk to animals. Not many listen though. That’s the problem.” ― A.A. Milne

3. They keep us grounded

We’re the only animals that focus on monetary gain and sporting results. Whether it’s your pet cat or a lion on the African plains, animals remind us that there are many more important things in life than our sometimes self-centred desires.

These wild king parrots in Australia seemed pretty content with some food and good company.

4. Science

Puppy Playtime at De-Stress Fest

Increasing amounts of scientific research point to the benefits of animal companionship.

Athletes don’t tend to need much extra exercise, although obviously taking the dog for a walk is beneficial to the physical health of non-athletes out there. However, having an animal companion also has been proven to reduce stress, something of utmost important to serious athletes.

Animals also tend to make recovery from serious illness or injury easier on us mentally and consequentially, physically.

Enjoy the animals around you — it’s science.



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