Subscribe Now

Zooeyia: the beneficial effects companion animals have on human health.

We may not give it a lot of thought, but innumerable studies show having a pet affects our health, for the better. The human-animal bond has been credited with decreasing stress, anxiety, depression, and pain.

Pet ownership is also said to boost the immune system, increase cardiovascular health, and even combat allergies and asthma. General wellbeing is also listed among the benefits of caring for animals, particularly when it comes to older people—those with pets are seen to be more capable of performing everyday physical activities like climbing stairs, bending, kneeling, bathing, dressing, etc., as the responsibilities associated with caring for animals require them to be more active.

Pain, stress, and anxiety are very familiar to former veterinary technician Celeste Corbeil. In fact, they are a large part of her everyday life.

Corbeil had always planned on being a veterinarian. As a high school student she participated in a vet clinic work-study program; she graduated from Essex Agricultural & Technical Community College with an associates of science in veterinary technology, and moved on to Mount Ida College for two more years of schooling to earn a bachelor of science, graduating at the top of her class. She was well on her way.

Then things took a turn.

Misdiagnosed with postpartum depression after the birth of her first daughter, Corbeil found her career goals were cut short. In time, it was discovered that she has chronic fatigue syndrome as well as fibromyalgia—an excruciating, debilitating condition that has come to define much of her life. Despite her diagnosis, however, she continued her work with animals at various veterinary clinics on the North Shore. Handling dogs, however, proved too taxing, so she went to work part-time at The Feline Hospital in Salem, where they treat only cats.

Ultimately, her condition kept her from working altogether. “I really missed the calming effect [animals] have on you,” says Corbeil. “And they provide a distraction from the constant pain and thinking about the pain. People say I am good at [working with pets], and it has a positive effect on my feelings of [self-worth].”

In recent years, Corbeil has suffered a series of serious health complications, which have required multiple surgeries. This is a woman who has to fight to get through each day in a way most of us can’t comprehend. There was a time when water aerobics and strength training provided relief. Today, it’s walking her dog that helps.

On occasion, Corbeil cares for a few cats referred by The Feline Hospital. Whether cat sitting or administering hospice care, she goes far beyond the call of duty. “It is sad when you know what the outcome is going to be, but helping people when they are losing their pet…I guess I am a caretaker.” Like much of what this gentle-hearted, soft-spoken woman says, this is an understatement. Celeste Corbeil is, in the truest sense, a cat whisperer—one whose quiet words are of great comfort to people and pets alike. And one who is rewarded herself  for the Herculean effort she makes to stay connected to the animal kingdom.