The first few years of our dog’s life are a mystery to us. A kind-hearted woman found Myles Standish wandering the streets of a large city on a cold, stormy Thanksgiving night. He was alone, afraid, and clearly starving to death.

She brought him home, named him, nursed him back to health and when he was on the road to recovery, she put him up for adoption.

We don’t know where or when he was born. We don’t know how he came to be lost and alone on that dark night. What we do know is that adopting Myles Standish has brought us joy, laughter, a sense of connection and calm.

If you’ve ever had a pet of any kind, I bet you know what I’m talking about. There is an unspoken bond between man and animals that can both enrich our lives and ease our anxiety. Pets offer no judgment. They never talk back. They love us unconditionally, and can offer around-the-clock emotional support in a way no human being can.

Research suggests that spending time with an animal can lower stress, blood pressure, and your cortisol (the stress hormone) level. And today pet therapy is commonly used to help Vets and others coping with PTSD. It is also common practice in nursing homes and hospice settings to either have animals on site or have them brought in to offer ease and comfort to clients.

Traditionally we think of dogs and cats when we think about therapy animals. But almost any animal will do. Guinea pigs, horses, birds, fish and even reptiles (for some people) can offer the same kind of peace and emotional support.

Best of all, you don’t have to bring an animal into your home to get the benefits of connecting with an animal. Take some time and watch the birds through your office window and notice the sense of relaxation as you make that connection. Maybe there’s a fish tank at your local library or your dentist’s office. Stop and watch the way the fish glide through the water, how they relate to each other and the world around them. Let go of your worried thoughts and just be.

So, when you’re feeling stressed this week, pet a dog. Stroke a cat. Listen to a bird. Watch a fish swim, a squirrel leap and play, or a butterfly land on a flower. Connect to the life around you and feel the sense of calm that follows.