As The Beatles famously sang, happiness is a warm pet.
OK, so that’s a slightly paraphrased version (my apologies to Lennon, McCartney and co.). But speak to anyone who owns a pet and they’ll agree it’s one of life’s great joys.
If you’ve been contemplating welcoming a pet into your life, now is a very good time. Right now there are thousands of dogs and cats in animal shelters around the country, ready and waiting to be adopted by a loving owner or family. And as part of its #LoveMyRescue initiative, Medibank is offering three months of free Pet Insurance to anyone who adopts a rescue cat or dog from a registered animal shelter.
That’s a great added incentive for potential owners, but for a rescue pet it’s an even bigger win. According to research by Medibank, 80 per cent of Australians would consider adopting a pet for two main reasons: to give a home to an animal in need (70 per cent of respondents), and to save a life (53 per cent).
After all, how often do we get the opportunity to save a life? That’s not all; 17 per cent of people said the economic benefit of adopting rather than buying a pet was the greatest appeal.
11 years ago, Michelle Bridges saved a life. And Paddy changed hers. Image: Supplied.
Someone who made the choice to rescue a pet is Michelle Bridges - personal trainer, author, mum, and owner of a gorgeous dog named Paddy.
Since adopting Paddy 11 years ago, Bridges' life has changed for the better. “I remember saying to my girlfriends, the exact words were, ‘He just brings me so much joy.’ Everybody loves Paddy; he’s just wonderful," she says.
Of course, owning a dog has plenty of advantages for your fitness. Bridges says Paddy brings "a real rhythm" to her life; his need for regular walks gets her out of the house and down to the local park.
Unsurprisingly, given Bridges and her partner Steve "Commando" Willis are both personal trainers, Paddy lives an especially active lifestyle. Case in point: the couple often takes him paddleboarding. (Post continues after video.)
“He comes out on the board with us, it’s hilarious," Bridges laughs, adding that they always try to incorporate their furriest family member into anything they're doing outdoors.
"It also makes us more inclined to find things to do outside, rather than sitting at home. We’ll go, ‘Paddy needs to go for a walk, why don’t we all go down to the park and take a picnic.’”
Fitness benefits aside, Bridges has noticed owning a pet is just as good for the mind and soul as it is for the body.
“I meet a lot of people, it’s very social, but it’s also that idea of knowing when I come home tonight he’s going to be there and he loves me dearly and he’s always there for me. All these positive things set the tone for a healthy life," she says.
It's not just grownups who reap the benefits of owning a pet. Bridges herself grew up with pets, and now her one-year-old son Axel will have the same experience with Paddy.
The fitness mogul firmly believes pets teach kids some valuable life lessons. For instance, if they're tasked with chores that involve the pet (eg. cleaning the kitty litter), they'll develop a sense of ownership and responsibility.
"There’s also a confidence they have to build up and trust and empathy, and understanding when to be gentle with the animal and how to handle them. It brings them back to nature," she explains.
If you still need a little convincing when it comes to deciding whether it's time for a pet, Bridges wants you to know it'll bring "a lot of joy, a lot of love, and a lot of happiness" into your world.
"He's my best friend," Michelle says of Paddy. Image: Supplied.
"It's also a chance for you to possibly take stock of what really is important in life. It’s not all about work - sometimes it’s about fun and play too, and a pet will give you that," she says.
“On top of all that, [adopting] is saving a life - it’ll be the most amazing thing you’ll ever do. That’s what the #LoveMyRescue campaign is all about.”
Another great tip to get your health in shape?
“Getting a litre of water in in the morning. I get up and the first thing I do is fill my water bottle up, and then while I’m busy making the bed - which is a habit my partner would say is one thing you should do every morning, it sets you up for the day - and doing all of that I’m just sipping away. By the time breakfast is over I’ve consumed a litre of water. I think that’s a really great habit to get into, particularly at this time of year and if you’re someone who forgets to drink throughout the day," Michelle explains.
If you do decide to adopt a pet into your home, Bridges urges you to share some photos of the new addition with your family on social media alongside the hashtag #LoveMyRescue. "I just want to see those smiling faces with a smiling pet going, 'Yay! I've found my forever home'," she says.
And, just quietly, the rest of us will enjoy the chance to look at cute animals on the internet, too.
What was your experience with adopting a pet?
Tens of thousands of cats and dogs are currently in rescue shelters across the country, waiting to be adopted. And due to such high numbers, sadly many of them struggle to find a loving home. That’s why Medibank’s launching #LoveMyRescue – an initiative encouraging anyone considering a pet to save a life and make it a rescue. As part of this, Medibank’s offering 3 months free Pet Insurance for rescue cats and dogs. To find out more, visit medibank.com.au/lovemyrescue.