Hanging with their people!

How to Deal with Difficult People [7 Part Series]

How man’s best friend can also be man’s savior


Hanging with their people!

Colonel and Roxy ~ We love each other and we pose well for treats


Have you ever been blessed with a dog in your life? How about a cat? If not, that’s okay. The lessons in this post will still help or perhaps inspire you to consider getting an animal. I became a dog owner almost seven years ago.


http://bit.ly/byeoverwhelmThe moment Roxy and I met, we were destined to be together. Roxy is a beautiful mutt. We also have a majestic Great Dane named Colonel. Yes, I am one of those people who spoil their dogs. Yes, I am a cat owner too. I love my cats yet I am certain I will always have at least one dog in my life.





It’s widely accepted that dogs can save lives. There are countless testimonials and studies demonstrating this. From search and rescue, public service dogs, to pulling people from harm’s way to pet therapy, guide dogs, to preventing injury or death, dogs are simply amazing. There is no denying the unconditional love and companionship they provide.




Two Ways Dogs Help Cope with Difficult People


1.    Petting dogs (and cats) can lower our blood pressure ~ as well as that of our pets.  


     It’s soothing and connects us. Dogs also lessen anxiety, depression, and help with other conditions.  According to Lynette Hart, PhD, studies have shown that Alzheimer’s patients have fewer anxious outbursts when there is an animal in the home. Their caregivers also feel less burdened when there is a pet; although cats are typically better in this situation because cats are more self-sufficient.






If and as appropriate, get a difficult, grumpy or generally unhappy person around an animal. You’d be amazed at how much lighter the person becomes and the shift that can take place. Be creative with how you can do this. If they are okay with dogs and neither of you has one, here are some ideas to find animal hangouts:   


·      A dog fair or event

·      A meet up group involving dogs

·      A friends’  dog

·      A dog park or family park

·      A common area for dog walking


2. Pet Therapy and Related Programs   


     There are several pet therapy programs where dogs go to various facilities to visit patients. These dogs have been trained as therapy dogs and let me tell you… frowns and anger can turn to smiles and peace in a matter of seconds. 


     Some assisted living/rehabilitation/nursing home facilities allow dogs and/or cats to visit their owners; as it promotes healing.  There are also hospices and palliative care facilities that have cats visit patients. 


    Did you know that cats provide comfort as someone is dying? There is a great book called, “Making rounds with Oscar: The Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat” by David Dosa, detailing his experience with this.


Personal Dog Story Alert

 One day, we took Roxy to visit my mom at a rehabilitation facility. Roxy is the sweetest dog and will lick you like crazy. She also jumps. She’s better now and can assume the sitting position but lord help someone who bends over to pet her. She gets excited and off she goes!


While walking Roxy down the hall, I saw at least five grumpy people; some yelling at their visitors or medical care providers, and when they saw Roxy, they stopped, smiled and asked to pet her. WOW. That’s the power of animals in action.


The beautiful part of this visit happened as we were leaving. There was a blind woman standing at the front desk with her husband. As Roxy brushed up against her leg, this woman’s frown turned upside down. She bent over to pet Roxy and something amazing happened; Roxy stood completely still and let the woman pet her. She didn’t even try licking the woman’s face. Roxy knew there was something different about her and behaved accordingly.


 I have personally witnessed the power our dogs have to save lives many times over. When I became a full-time caregiver for both parents, they moved in with us. My dad did NOT like dogs. He tried and tried to yell at our dogs (can you imagine someone yelling at these two precious dogs!?!), push them away and let it be known he wasn’t happy.


After telling my dad that we all needed to learn to cohabitate, he realized I wasn’t going to give in.  From that day on, my dad softened and his blood pressure and blood sugar were manageable. He started petting all our animals and even stopped muttering under his breath!




Man’s best friend became man’s savior one night when Roxy alerted me in the middle of the night.  My dad was having his first grand mal seizure. There are so many such circumstances when Colonel and/or Roxy saved my dad’s life many times and saved my mom’s life several times. Both dogs alerted me to a third cancer diagnosis. Roxy alerted us when one of our cats was about to have a seizure.


Clara Belle-I may be special needs but that makes me all the more special



Neither dog has been trained for this.  Needless to say, Roxy became my dad’s best friend and savior from that day forward. What my dad didn’t realize is they were protecting him all along. Colonel would walk next to him ever so gently. When my dad needed to lean on something, Colonel was there. They worked together with an ebb and flow that couldn’t have been planned any better if they tried.



While these examples apply more for difficult people in hospitals or other facilities. As appropriate to the situation, see if there is a pet therapy program in your area and find a way to connect a pet with your loved one/friend. Exposing a pet to a difficult person can soften them up. From my perspective, it’s hard to be grumpy, angry or ornery when a well behaved dog is around.

  It’s hard to be grumpy, angry or ornery when a well behaved dog is around. Click To Tweet


YOUR TURN: Please comment below with your insights, experiences or ideas about how animals have made a difference in your life or the life of someone you know. Do you have any other ideas related to pets and difficult people?

Want more articles like this? Check out these articles: 


  • 10 common reasons people can be so difficult –
  • Practical strategies to turn the impossible to POSSIBLE –
  • 3 ways to strengthen your relationship –
  • 3 ways to save your blood pressure and sanity –
  • How your car could save your relationship –
  • 5 things to know before you go –
  • The ONE thing that makes all the difference –


© Copyright 2013, Tandy Elisala, http://www.centerforinspiringgreatness.com and http://www.tandyelisala.com. Permission is granted to copy, forward, or distribute this article for non-commercial use only, as long as this copyright byline and bio, in totality, is maintained in all duplications, copies, and link references.  For reprint permission for any commercial use, in any form of media, please contact Tandy at tandy@tandyelisala.com


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Tandy Elisala

Family Caregiver Coach, Cancer Empowerment Advocate and Chief Inspiration Officer at Center for Inspiring Greatness | Empowered Family Caregiver
Tandy Elisala is passionate about helping family caregivers go from being overwhelmed and stressed to empowered and calm. Tandy went through cancer four times and learned how to heal using conventional, complementary, and alternative therapy. Tandy left her corporate career to take care of both parents simultaneously while raising three kids as a single mom. She took care of both parents for 2 1/2 years until their respective deaths. Tandy now teaches what she learned on her journey. Tandy is a family caregiver coach, a multiple best-selling author, inspirational speaker and mom to three adult kids, one angel dog and one diva cat.

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14 replies
  1. Kathy @ SMART Living 365.com
    Kathy @ SMART Living 365.com says:

    Just found your site and this post and I SO agree that a loving pet is a life saver. My husband and I currently live with our rescue Kloe who keeps us smiling, happy and well exercised each and every day. I can’t imagine my life without her and have a difficult time understanding how others can not feel the same. Thanks for the great reminders your post contains.

    • Tandy Elisala
      Tandy Elisala says:

      Thanks for visiting and for your comments Kathy! I agree with you 1000%. I’m glad you resonated with my message.

  2. Christine Alejandro
    Christine Alejandro says:

    Tandy: I am a huge proponent of therapy dogs & embrace their enormous health benefits! I’ve also seen the benefits of pet therapy in public schools, engaging “troubled” students & providing comfort to students that feel ostracized. Pets have an amazing ability to KNOW what someone needs & instinctively provide for & protect their human companions. Your story touched my heart & I’m sure will provide the answer so many others are seeking! Thanks for sharing!

    • TandyMain
      TandyMain says:

      Aaawww. I see you made it to the dog post of this series Christine. Thanks for your comments. I’ve seen huge benefits of pet therapy as you have. Another interesting program I’ve seen is a pet training/therapy for inmates. Why I thought of this right now I’m not sure but some prisons allow inmates to train puppies to become therapy dogs and the process and transformation that occurs for the inmates is quite astonishing.

  3. Sonya
    Sonya says:

    Hi Tandi,
    What a great post. The animals is our lives can provide such nourishment and enrichment. And dogs, in particular, are so wonderful because they model unconditional love so beautifully.

    • TandyMain
      TandyMain says:

      Thanks Sonya. I agree 1000%!!! They model unconditional love so beautifully and us humans can learn a lot from dogs:-)

  4. Gina Hiatt
    Gina Hiatt says:

    Wow, Tandy, have you ever been through a lot! And it sounds like your pets made the journey much more bearable. Have you ever seen the pictures of different species becoming best friends or adopting each other? Giant dogs with tiny kittens, a dog and an elephant who became bff’s, even cross-species nursing! It’s touch and caring that soothes, and it doesn’t matter what species (well, I don’t know about fish and worms). I love how your Dad softened to the dogs and then depended on them. I loved my dogs so much and they helped me endure a lot before my surgery.

    • TandyMain
      TandyMain says:

      Hi Gina! Yes, I’ve definitely seen these pics of different species coming together. These videos and pictures warm my heart and demonstrate that love is a universal language:-)

  5. Casi
    Casi says:

    Pets have definitely made a difference in my life. I grew up with cats and dogs in the house.

    I’m convinced that part of the reason Granny is still alive and kicking and taking care of the rest of us is that she keeps so many animals around her. Though after the last dog went she did stop with the dogs and stuck with cats.

    I do miss my cats, but my husband and I had to make the tough decision that until we settle in one place we are not going to traumatize any non-human family members by keeping them with us.

    Maybe someday though.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • TandyMain
      TandyMain says:

      Casi, thanks so much for sharing your story. I’m sure you are right about Granny:-) I’m sure when the time is right, you and your husband will find the perfect pet for the perfect home to join you both!

  6. Helena Bowers
    Helena Bowers says:

    I am a total believer in the healing power of animals. It’s been about 4 years since I’ve had a dog, and I miss her every day. One of my long terms goals is to create a shelter/sanctuary where we can train rescues to be therapy dogs, or whatever their life purpose is.

    • TandyMain
      TandyMain says:

      Helena, always keep your eyes on the goal. Yours is a beautiful one. If there is any way I can support you in your long term goal, let me know. I’m on board with this!!

  7. K.Lee Banks
    K.Lee Banks says:

    Hello! Dropping by from Facebook/UBC. What a great post! (I’ll have to catch up and read the whole series). I can definitely relate to the wonderful experience of having canine companions. Hubby and I had a beautiful black lab, Nikita, for 12 years. Sadly, we lost her a year ago, just one week before Christmas. Last January, about a month after losing her, we visited our local Humane Society and adopted another canine companion and new beloved “fur baby” – and beautiful brindle hound mix puppy we named Desiree (or usually just Desi).

    We also own six cats – five of which are formerly feral kittens who showed up in our yard in the fall of 2009 as tiny kittens not much bigger than squirrels. We love all our fur babies – they add so much to our lives – and we would still like to get another black lab puppy to add to our family.

    • TandyMain
      TandyMain says:

      K.Lee, Oh.my.goodness. I love your comments. Thanks so much for sharing your experience. I love a family that takes care of our furry animals!


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