While we often congratulate ourselves when we "save" a dog or cat or horse by adopting a new friend, who is rescuing who? As a veterinarian since 1984, I have been privileged to bear witness to the many benefits that we humans gain when we adopt a pet.
Our pets are a source of unconditional love and they forgive us when we are preoccupied or selfish. They teach us when we are children to be gentle and to consider another's needs, not just our own. They teach us responsibility and perhaps even basic parenting skills as we attempt to train and take care of our new friend. I'm not sure I would have had the courage to marry and have children, if I hadn't already proved to myself that I could maintain a successful long-term relationship with my dogs and cats.
On a more scientific level, pets lower our stress and even our blood pressure and prevent or help alleviate depression, especially among seniors and those who live alone. Having your pet greet you when you return home at the end of a stressful day jump-starts the rest and relaxation we all need. Walking our dogs and cuddling or playing with our cats, forces us to live in the moment, just as they do.
I can't help but feel sorry for those people who can't or won't share their lives with a dog, cat, horse or other furry or feathered or scaly friend. They are missing out on one of life's best experiences. Thank you to the cats I've "rescued" - you rescued me too!