I once heard that having a pet brings health benefits to those who are sick. WebMd says that pets can lower blood pressure, lessen anxiety and boost immunity. But, to be frank, I've never considered myself a pet person. I'm not that fond of cats. Dogs tend to jump up on you, and let's be honest - they kind of stink.

All that changed when my husband brought home a puppy on Valentine's Day. My new little Doxie Pin (half dachshund, half mini pinscher) stole my heart. And now I am discovering those benefits that everyone talks about, and more. Here are some ways that my pet, Wesley, has helped me cope with my chronic illness.

1. He loves me

Adoringly and unconditionally. When he sits on my lap and looks up at me with those chocolate eyes, my heart melts.

2. He keeps me company

Because of my illness, I am mainly housebound. I don't have a lot of visitors, and I often need to stay home while my family goes out to enjoy different activities. Wesley keeps me busy and eases my loneliness during those times I am by myself.

3. He makes me laugh every day

Sometimes it's a giggle, like when he flips his ear back because he thinks it makes him look charming. Sometimes it's a belly laugh, like when he was chasing a ball and somersaulted head over heels, landing on his back. But he never fails to make me laugh.

4. He gives me a sense of accomplishment

Wesley is a fast learner and loves learning new tricks. He thinks he has to do everything with a flourish. So, when I teach him "touch," he leaps to touch my hand. When I teach him "down," he pounces into position. Watching him learn so quickly and build a repertoire of tricks gives me a sense of accomplishment.

5. He gets me outside

Before Wesley joined our family, I was content to spend all day inside, working on my computer or watching TV. Now, I have to take him outside regularly to go to the bathroom or play. Dr. Mercolalists several health benefits of sunshine, including increasing the production of Vitamin D, enhancing moods and energy by increasing endorphins, improving immunity, protecting against multiple sclerosis (MS) symptoms, relieving fibromyalgia pain, regulating body temperature and treating Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Getting outside each day lets me take advantage of these benefits.

6. He makes me exercise

Overdoing it is not a good thing, but neither is underdoing it. An article published in The Wall Street Journal reported that regular exercise boosts the body's immune system. It can also help chronic illness because it combats the ongoing damage to cells, tissues and organs that underlies many chronic issues. Taking Wesley for a short walk and even just playing with him helps me to be more active so I can enjoy the benefits of exercise.

7. He helps me meet people

I live in a neighborhood where everyone pretty much keeps to themselves. We might wave to each other in passing, but that's about all. All of that has changed since Wesley. As I walk him down our street, neighbors stop to say hi and pet the puppy. We talk about their dogs and our shared experiences. They give me welcome advice. This has given me a social outlet that I hadn't had before.

I've discovered that owning a pet far outweighs the problems I had anticipated. But I have a confession - Wesley does kind of stink. Does anyone have a suggestion for that?

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