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The Suburbanite
  • Family finds comfort in rescue animals

  • Kathie and Rick Clark of Green, who have three adult children, has found that the presence of rescue pets in their household has reduced empty nest syndrome and given them a strong sense of purpose in their daily lives.

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  • Just days after the horrific bombing at the Boston Marathon that mystified the nation, a beacon of hope arrived in the form of a handful of Golden Retrievers. Following a trend that seems to be a staple in any modern tragedy, trainers brought in the therapy dogs to provide emotional support for those affected by the attack.
    Similarly, the Student Animal Legal Defense Fund provided puppies to stressed students at the University of Akron’s law school April 18, just in time for finals.
    There’s no denying that pets can be calming and provide friendship, but new research suggests that owning one or more pets can also be beneficial to an owners’ physical and mental health and can even extend an owner’s life.
    Kathie and Rick Clark of Green knew that when they adopted two rescue animals through PAWSibilities, The Humane Society of Greater Akron, they’d be doing a service to their health and well-being. Tinkerbell, a domestic shorthair kitten who’d taken on an illness that left her with just one eye, joined their family in 2007. Their Jack Russell mix, Eddie, found a forever home with the Clarks after having an extensive surgery on his side in 2008.
    The couple, who has three adult children, has found that the presence of the pets in their household has reduced empty nest syndrome and given them a strong sense of purpose in their daily lives.
    “We adopted sick pets and they needed a little TLC,” Kathie Clark said. “To see them adapt makes you feel good that you’re able to take an animal that was really having a problem and see them adjust and do really well.”
    RIGHT AT HOME
    Rick Clark said he can’t go a single day without having Tinkerbell sit on his lap. He takes her to parades and for rides in his truck.
    The couple’s daughter, Laura Clark, is employed part-time with PAWSibilities, where she acts as an adoption counselor and does pet behavioral assessments. Laura Clark said her job is mostly about matching animal to human and making sure each animal gets the right home.
    “We match pets to owners based on their lifestyles,” Laura Clark said. “We have an interview process where we get a feel for what kind of lifestyle you have, and that way we can kind of point out which pet might be best in your household.”
    The Clarks themselves once had a high-strung Silky Terrier that came from a pet shop, but Kathie Clark said her adopted pets have superior personalities.
    “These are much more personable pets,” she said.
    Tinkerbell and Eddie want to be around the action, according to Kathie, and are always nearby when she and her husband are working or just lounging around.
    Page 2 of 2 - “They really make the house feel less empty,” Laura Clark said.
    COMPANIONSHIP
    Karen Hackenberry, executive director of PAWSibilities, said that there are definite benefits to owning or fostering an animal.
    “Study after study has shown that people who have companion animals bring love and joy to our lives,” Hackenberry said. “I think anybody who has a furry friend knows no matter what kind of day you have had, when you open that door and that animal is there with unconditional love, it feels really good.”
    PAWSibilities only takes in severely neglected or abused animals in Summit County, and the organization never has a shortage of animals to choose from. In the same way that caring for a fish or a plant can give a person a sense of purpose, a companion animal can provide that and more, according to Hackenberry.
    “It gives you somebody besides yourself at home to think about and care about and look after,” she said. “I think in general people are happier when they live in a community, and that can certainly be friends and family, and sometimes our friends have four legs.”
    PAWSibilities will host its annual pledge walk and pet expo, Bark in the Park, on Saturday, May 11 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Springfield Lake Park in Springfield. The pledge walk, which will raise funds for severely sick, injured, abused and neglected animals, will begin at noon.
    Registration is $5 and there is no cost for children under 12. Pets are welcome at the event, which will feature music, food vendors, contests and more.
    For more information on the event or adopting an animal, visit the PAWSibilities website at www.summithumane.org.