Unleashed on the Danforth

The pet population of this community proves that its residents are well aware of the joys and benefits of pet ownership. Believe it or not, pets and personal wellness go hand-in-hand.

by Amy Postma

The Danforth area has cultivated a pet-friendly community as a walk down any of its streets will confirm. Keiley Abbat, proprietor of Small Wonders Pets on Danforth Avenue, confirms that this is a community that caters to and encourages the pet/owner relationship. Even businesses welcome pets, Abbat explains, not only “allowing them in their establishments (if the law allows) but by providing treats as well. Many cafes along the Danforth have established ‘dog tie-out areas.’” So what have Danforth residents tapped into to facilitate such a pet-friendly attitude?

photo by Megan Patterson, Ottawa, 2010

The medical community has acknowledged the health and wellness benefits of spending time with animals. Animal Assisted Therapy programs, implemented by organizations like St. John Ambulance and The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in downtown Toronto, are used to increase quality of life for patients in nursing homes and hospitals. SickKids’ website explains that “the presence of an animal in stressful situations has been found to lower blood pressure, increase relaxation, and reduce perceived pain.” A pet can be a calming force as well as remind a patient of the love they have from an animal left at home.

In addition to the medical benefits of spending time with pets, Abbat makes a case for pets as responsible for heightening feelings of community and personal safety. By being forced outside to let the cat out or walk the dog, “pets give people a sense of well-being, as well as a source of conversation between otherwise complete strangers who share a similar bond,” she says. In terms of safety, a dog, in its timeless role of guard dog, is a potential crime deterrent, and as Abbat notes, they “will alert us to unusual noises on our residential streets.”

photo by Megan Patterson, Ottawa, 2010

If you own a pet or are looking to own one, it is important to ensure that their health is properly addressed and looked after. Abbat advises to always treat your pet as a pet: “Respecting and accepting what makes it an entirely different species goes a long way to securing the proper emotional development of the pet. Dogs chew. Cats scratch. Birds make a mess. To deny them what is natural is to deny what they are.” In addition, she recommends training to help guide your pet’s behaviour as well as ensuring proper preventive healthcare to strengthen the relationship between pet and owner.

One of the greatest experiences of owning a pet is its absolute unconditional love. Pet owners can all agree that coming home to a cat rubbing against your legs or dog wagging its tail in excitement of your arrival can diminish the stress of a bad day. Likewise, feeding fish and watching them swim in an aquarium can be relaxing while you unwind from a busy day. Another benefit is getting exercise by taking your dog for a walk everyday or playing fetch in the yard.  If space is an issue, East York has great opportunities for pet owners as it is home to many parks. In particular, Riverdale Park West and Withrow Park both include leash-free areas to get outdoors and play with your dog while socializing with other pet owners. With so many benefits to gain, anyone can look forward to enjoying the personal health benefits that accompany taking care of an animal.




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