I’ve always heard many beliefs about how animals help with healing those of us who are sick or injured—and I have always been a believer in their power to do so.

There are so many touching stories in print and online of pets who stay loyal and who give strength to depressed, injured, incapacitated, and ill owners, and many a time we read about animals being there when other humans cannot, or will not, do the same. In fact, we featured miniature horses which performed comforting and cheering-up duties at local hospitals in a recent Pet Bulletin.

When I was in California several years ago, I met an Iraqi war veteran who preferred to live on the street instead of in military housing so that he would not lose his two cats. He let people pet the cats on the street, and we donated to their care. I asked why he preferred to live that way and he answered simply, “I can’t give them up. They are my life.”

And those of us who love animals will understand why—because so many animals bring the gift of truly unconditional love, the kind that heals the spirit and the heart.

There are many decades-old studies by reputable institutes that show the connection between humans, animals, and healing. Simply petting your dog or can bring down your blood pressure; those who have other types of pets can derive a relaxing kind of pressure from merely watching them swim, move around, sing, or just be. Petting a pet is also proven to raise levels of oxytocin, a hormone crucial for healing and growing new cells.

I am learning a lot more about the healing connection between animals and humans. As I am still in the process of recovering from what was a life-threatening illness, I’ve found that the animals around me seem to have upped their comforting skills. They hover around me; the cats curl up to me when I work on my laptop and purr mightily, and the dogs have taken to staying around me in turns. While we cannot speak, I am very grateful for their kindness and concern for me.

Do you have an animal healing story? It would be wonderful to hear about it from you.

This story appeared in Animal Scene’s March 2015 issue.