I won’t be in today... Fido has a touch of the flu

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Living - - BONDINGS - JOHN MASTERSON

Iwas very taken by the story of the Ital­ian aca­demic who claimed two days sick leave from her univer­sity be­cause her dog was sick. Need­less to say the em­ployer took a poor view of this and the is­sue ended up in court. The judge found that the pet was part of the fam­ily, so the woman won her case and Ital­ian em­ploy­ers must be quak­ing in their boots. I as­sume she pro­vided a vet’s cer­tifi­cate.

It did strike me that the Ital­ian judges are not much dif­fer­ent from ours and it is only a mat­ter of time be­fore one of our learned friends awards about 15,000 to some pooch that was in a five-mile-an-hour mo­tor ac­ci­dent and the owner swears is plagued by whiplash.

The cen­tral point in court was the pet was part of the fam­ily. It was also pointed out that it would have been cruel to leave the sick an­i­mal alone.

Italy has harsh penal­ties for cru­elty to an­i­mals and that is as it should be. Any­one who is cruel to an an­i­mal is the low­est of the low in my book.

I was at the ar­rivals gate in an air­port dur­ing the sum­mer and watched a man get the most en­thu­si­as­tic greet­ing I have ever wit­nessed. It was not from his wife. She was a mere be­mused by­stander. It was from a small dog who was be­side it­self with ex­cite­ment to see the re­turn of its mas­ter. The de­lighted man’s face was licked fe­ro­ciously by the deliri­ous pooch who to­tally lost con­trol. The man’s wife must have known the drill as she even­tu­ally re­claimed the dog and gave her hus­band a clean T-shirt. Min­utes later he emerged from the bath­room to a more se­date wel­come from his wife. There were cer­tainly three happy mem­bers of that fam­ily and only two were hu­man.

There is no short­age of psy­cho­log­i­cal re­search show­ing the ben­e­fits to our men­tal health of hav­ing a pet. De­pres­sion rates are a great deal lower. Self es­teem is higher.

And the ben­e­fits are not just to our men­tal health. Stud­ies have found blood pres­sure is lower in pet own­ers. It also ap­pears that pets are of great as­sis­tance in deal­ing with stress. Not sur­pris­ingly peo­ple with dogs get more ex­er­cise. But they also gain from many friendly so­cial in­ter­ac­tions when out walk­ing with Fido.

I am a firm be­liever that it is good for chil­dren to take care of, and love, an an­i­mal. About 90pc of chil­dren are for­tu­nate to have a pet at some time in child­hood.

Most of us have happy mem­o­ries. And many of us first ex­pe­ri­enced grief when it was time to say good­bye to a much loved friend. I re­mem­ber fail­ing mis­er­ably to hold back the tears not so long ago when say­ing good­bye to a very faith­ful lit­tle mutt that I knew well.

It seems the Ital­ian lady had a point. Ask any fam­ily is their pet a fam­ily mem­ber and it seems most peo­ple will say ‘yes’.

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