Feel Like Talking or Not?

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By: Dr. Jack Stephens

Feel like talking or not? If not, tell people you sell insurance! Several years back, while traveling extensively to promote pet health insurance, I noticed something interesting. Everyone that travels has had the experience of going on a flight and after you are seated you or the person next to you ask where you are going? Are you going home, traveling on vacation or on business? Then they will invariably ask you what your occupation is.

For many years at parties or social gathering, I was reluctant to offer my occupation, not because I was ashamed, but because I would be overwhelmed with stories about pets or asked for medical advice on pets. Flying was the same. If I told my fellow passenger that I was a veterinarian, then a litany of pet stories would ensue and sure enough, I would be provided some pet symptoms and asked for my medical opinion. I found I could not read, contemplate or get any work done.

Quickly I discovered that if I wanted to read or work or simply did not feel like talking due to some major issue that I was pondering, I would tell my fellow passenger that I sold insurance. That ended the conversation! I must have given that answer to over 100 people over a 20 year period. And, you know, not ONE person asked what kind of insurance I sold. I guess they were afraid I would try to sell them an insurance policy.

In fact, I never really liked insurance or the thought of insurance ever since I was a senior at Veterinary School and was bombarded by all the University ex jocks who sold life insurance. They descended upon soon to be graduates like a lynch mob in the Old West. But here I was, a veterinarian who sold insurance. I always distill things down to the basics and it was true, like so much in life we never know where life will take us. Yet, I slowly and deliberately chosen my new career path and was not about to change. I was helping many hundreds of thousands of more pets than I ever could have done in my pet practice and was providing a service that protected family bonds and pet health. But my method sure stops people from chatting if you are ever on a plane and not in the mood to talk!

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I Sell Pet Insurance
Telling people I am a veterinarian has one path of continued dialog, telling them I sell insurance ceases all dialog; but tell them that I sell Pet Insurance and watch out. At first, they just sit or stand there, with their mouth partly open; pondering the dichotomy of a vet, who is generally held in high regard or even revered by some and combined with selling insurance which is similar to being a used car salesman, although with more education. Then, after a few seconds of silence, their whole face brightens up and they say, “That is a wonderful idea. Did you think of that?” Their first impression, which they do not share, is “that is the dumbest thing I ever heard.” But during that silent pause to be courteous, they realize that pet insurance is a good idea. Why? I think because everyone in America and throughout the more urban societies is starting to recognize the REAL VALUE of pets. As we leave more rural areas and agricultural societies to dwell in urban societies we lose the ties of family and small close knit groups who help one another. We also lose the interaction with animals that has been rooted in our biology over many thousands of years. We have more time from labor intensive activities; we have more complex relationships that create stress and emotional upheaval which causes us to seek solace and non critical companionship. It is easy to understand why pets with their unconditional acceptance of us play a vital role in our health and well being.

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Not sure? Animals, especially pets have a biological relationship with us that has developed over the eons of time. This longstanding relationship has created positive biochemical and hormonal reactions within us that helped us survive and cope. We have known for some time that pets can lower our blood pressure. In fact studies have shown that simply sitting in front of a fish tank will lower our blood pressure.

Petting even a strange pet will increase good hormones, chemicals and neurotransmitters and decrease stress hormones in our bodies. It also results in an increase in serotonin levels in the brain, which is a natural antidepressant. Pets are so good for us, that innately we want to provide for them. Often my wife will tell me that she wishes I would respond to her greeting as enthusiastically as I do to our pets greeting. She is right and it is a good reminder of my deficiencies as a husband. But our pets display the same overwhelming exuberance when I am gone from the house for a few minutes as they do when I return from a long trip. They are simply glad to see me and they have to outdo one another in their greeting. Whenever my wife or I return form a brief trip to the store or from a long trip we receive the same “pack welcome”, which makes us feel good. Think how many times you are anxious to go home and see your pet, because of their greeting. Just the thought of your pet greeting you at the door is enough to make you smile. Watch pet owners who talk about their pet, they are smiling. Stop and think of your pet now or describe some episode with your pet and you will smile. Each of us has our own special memories or daily activities with our pets that make us happy.

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Happy Hormone
Oxytocin is a natural human and animal hormone. We think of it as only being a hormone for women that increases with pregnancy and is responsible for helping mothers give birth. In fact, oxytocin is given to animals to stimulate birthing. But men also have very small amounts of oxytocin, which is one reason why men and women are different. Oxytocin also is thought to be primarily responsible for the feeling of “warmth and comfort,” in men and women. Oxytocin has much higher levels in women and is thought to be the reason why women are more responsive to children.

Petting your pet increases the oxytocin levels in our bodies, even men! It gives you that feeling of well being and warmth. Don’t worry men; your level will not increase enough to cause you to want to give birth. But it will give you a glimpse into the feelings that women have for children.

“If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.”
Will Rogers

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