Pets and Mental Wellness: Danielle Harris Of Le Pepite Frenchies On How to Maximize the Mental Health Benefits of Having a Pet

Pets and Mental Wellness: Danielle Harris Of Le Pepite Frenchies On How to Maximize the Mental Health Benefits of Having a Pet

Put down the phone. Be in the moment with your pet. Use this time to decompress and disconnect from the chaos of the world. When you’re out and about doing things or in the yard playing, don’t stay glued to your phone. Give your pet your undivided attention like they do for you.

Pets have always been more than just companions; they play a pivotal role in enhancing our mental well-being. From the unconditional love of a dog to the calming presence of a cat, pets have a unique way of alleviating stress, anxiety, and loneliness. But how do we truly harness the therapeutic potential of our furry, feathered, or scaled friends? How can they aid in promoting mindfulness, reducing depression, or even enhancing social interactions? In this interview series, we are talking to veterinarians, psychologists, therapists, pet trainers, and other experts who can shed light on how to maximize the mental health benefits of having a pet. As a part of this series I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Danielle Harris.

Danielle Harris, Le Pepite Frenchies French Bulldog Breeder and Reproductive Enthusiast Working closely with her Reproductive Specialist Veterinarians, Danielle has been breeding French bulldogs since 2018. She is incredibly knowledgeable of the breed, reproduction, whelping, and genetics. Danielle continues to contribute her knowledge and experience with breeding community nationwide.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

There have been a lot of interesting things that I have experienced through this journey. The one thing that tops the list is being there for the birth of our first French bulldog and helping to rub the puppies as they were being born. As puppies are born their airways need to be cleared and stimulated to breathe.

It’s an incredible experience, one that I will never forget.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

To be honest, I’m not much of a “hobby/pleasure” reader. I can’t sit still and focus long enough but I have been known to read occasionally. Jules Verne was one of my favorites: Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Journey to the Center of the Earth, and The Mysterious Island.

I have always had a fascination with the mythological: angels, demons, Nephilim, magic, Greek and Egyptian gods, and goddesses.

The book that stands out the most to me now though is New York Times Best Seller: Angelology by Danielle Trussoni. It focuses on Nephilim and human interaction. It’s full of suspense, piquing imagination. The images Danielle can conjure in your mind are breathtaking, transporting you to another world and time. The book has allowed me to escape reality and enjoy this fantasy place. I started reading it again for the second time a few weeks ago while whelping a litter of puppies. It’s a good read for late night and early morning feedings.

I have always wondered what it would be like to be able to fly, the characters in this book are pretty good at allowing me to live vicariously through them.

Dan Brown was another author I liked as well, an author I discovered through my mom’s collection.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Can you share a personal story about how a pet has helped you or someone you know to improve mental wellness?

I struggle with social anxiety particularly large crowds and loud environments.

General anxiety and Depression are also things that run in the family, and I have experienced it over the years.

Social anxiety is especially frustrating. The noise and visuals just take over and create sensory overload.

I remember one specific time as a young child, I was probably between 5 and 8 years old. We were on a trip to New York City to see Cats on Broadway. I was sitting in the middle seat in the car and started having an absolute meltdown over being surrounded by cars. If I had had one of our dogs with us, I probably wouldn’t have had that experience.

Dogs have been my saving grace. If dogs are allowed in an establishment, one of them is coming with us.

Having a dog with me helps me to maintain focus on the task at hand. The dog gives me something concrete to focus on rather than noise and people around me. If I do get overwhelmed, I can stop, take a second to collect myself, and move on.

The dogs also enjoy these outings because they’re great opportunities for training and reinforcing training. They also love to socialize with people.

People in social settings can also be a challenge for me. I often stress about if we’ll have common interests. Am I boring, am I weird?

Bringing pets out in public gives me something I can talk about with ease. When people approach us it’s always for the dog. This makes the flow of the conversation much easier. They often ask questions about the animals, and I usually have answers that aren’t typical because of my job, which leads more questions.

All these things have boosted confidence and trust in myself and my pet! Confidence in new surroundings, sounds, smells, people, and establishing expectations for these experiences.

It builds trust with your pet, knowing they can rely on you for confirmation and proper guidance.

An additional reason why I enjoy taking the dogs out in public is that they can give me a creative outlet with photography.

While human interaction is essential for emotional well-being, in what ways do interactions with pets offer unique benefits that human relationships might not provide?

Pets are unconditionally loving and loyal. They don’t care if you’ve had a bad day or if you’re grumpy. In their eyes it’s their job to make it better.

They’re in the moment. They don’t worry about what’s happening tomorrow, what happened yesterday or 5 years ago. They’re just focused on the here and now. Which I think “being in the moment” more could do humanity some good. Setting ourselves up for success is important but if it’s not going to matter in 5 years don’t spend your precious time worrying about it.

So many people are worried about getting that perfect Instagram shot to share with the world, to get the “likes” for that 10 minute of fame, they miss out on what’s right in front of them. They spend 30 minutes or an hour trying to get that perfect photo or video that they fail to enjoy and appreciate moment. This is something I learned from the movie “The Secret Life of Water Mitty” when Walter is looking for the character Sean Penn portrays as the photographer. He eventually finds him on top of a snowy mountain with the camera set up on the tripod. Penn had the perfect once in a lifetime shot but refused to take it because he wanted to appreciate the moment with the snow Leopard.

Pets can give us a sense of stability and security. They’re always there for you. They create routine. Pets can sense your mood and needs, adjusting their behaviors and energy based that. For example, if I’m excited about something the dogs will mirror my excitement. If I’m sad and crying the dogs may respond in a quieter more respectful manner like lying next to me or cuddling up on my lap. A human may not understand your thoughts and feelings which may result in feeling invalid or insecure. Pets don’t need to understand, they just feel and know. I know my pets will always be there for me when I need them, good times and bad. They never make me feel terrible about how I’m feeling or what I’m experiencing. They’re the constant in an ever-changing world.

Caring for a pet can give you a sense of purpose, a feeling that you’re wanted and needed. By taking care of a pet, you’re doing something for someone else, this can help to give your life meaning.

Pets are unbiased and accepting. Animals don’t care about money, skin color, hair color, height, weight, gender, and disabilities. They don’t judge you based on the clothes you wear or the car you drive. They don’t have the ability to bully and criticize. They accept you for who you are.

Pets may offer companionship you’re looking for. Whether you struggle with building friendships and meaningful relationships, live alone, or just want a pet, this is something a pet can provide.

Often as we grow older, we can forget how to have fun, pets can bring that back for us. They have a childlike goofiness about them which can be contagious.

Pets can help you build confidence. No matter what the situation is, if you’re not confident a pet may be able to help you.

Can you explain how this works? How do pets, particularly common ones like dogs and cats, biologically and psychologically help to alleviate human stress levels and anxieties?

Interacting with animals decreases cortisol (the stress hormone) and lowers blood pressure. When pets and humans interact oxytocin spikes (the feel-good hormone that bonds parents to babies, especially mother and child).

Petting an animal also releases serotonin and dopamine both of which help to calm and relax you. Pet owners frequently have lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels and heart attack survivors with pets live longer than their counterparts.

Pets force us to develop and establish routine and structure in your life. This can give a sense of control and stability. Those who suffer from stress and anxiety may benefit from a more structured routine that a pet can give.

Pets also promote mindfulness and awareness You may find yourself to develop better awareness and control of emotions when animals are around.

In the backdrop of global events like pandemics or natural disasters, how have you seen pets playing a role in alleviating anxiety and providing comfort? Can you share some instances where pets have been integrated into therapeutic practices? How do they complement traditional therapeutic techniques?

When the pandemic hit people started to add pets to their families. We were cut off from the world and unable to socialize, which becomes extremely isolating.

With isolation comes depression.

At dog parks, with proper distancing we were able to still socialize both ourselves and our dogs. I know this made a huge difference for people with pets. Even going out on walks in the neighborhood and passing other people taking their daily stroll made a difference.

My dad was in and out of a rehabilitation facility for the past few years due to falling and having surgery on his shoulder. In rehab he was working on regaining strength and learning how to walk again. Family couldn’t visit as often as we liked. At first only my mom was allowed to visit with a mask on. We were allowed to stand outside of his window and call him on the phone to have a conversation. As you can imagine that was quite isolating as well especially during the holidays, thanksgiving to be specific. Thanksgiving and Christmas have always been important for us as a family.

While my dogs aren’t official therapy dogs, when we visited, we were able to bring them with us. Not only did they provide comfort, love, and excitement to my dad, but we visited with a few other patients as well.

Therapy animals lift the spirits of those who are in these types of situations exponentially. Animals are social beings, they have empathy on some sort of level and can feel the emotional energy of those around them, catering to the needs of the individual. Whether that’s playing a bit of fetch or sitting calmly with the patient and allowing them to gently pet them.

They offer companionship even for a short time where it otherwise is lacking. This companionship is vital. It makes a person feel needed, wanted, and loved.

Therapists and medications are helpful but not nearly the same as true socialization and being surrounded by the people and things you love most.

Almost 10 years ago, after 2 years in the nursing home, my grandmother passed away at the age of 95 years old. She fell and broke her hip, then had 2 strokes, and was experiencing age related dementia. We would bring the dogs in to visit her as well. When the dogs were able to visit with her, we noticed the light came back. It flooded her mind with memories and the stories would come pouring out. Stories about high school, raising my parents, the grandkids, her own dogs, and cooking. She loved the feeling of their fur and weight of them sitting on her lap. There’s a comfort in pressure, like that of a weighted blanket.

Both places mentioned frequently have therapy dogs visit with their patients.

Horses are commonly used for therapy in people of all ages and abilities. They help to develop trust, social skills, emotional awareness, confidence, problem solving skills, and learning boundaries. They can aid in physical, occupational, and emotional growth as well as developmental delays, memory disorders such as dementia, autism, PTSD, ADHD, addiction and more. Horse therapies may even be covered by health insurance.

Not all pets are dogs or cats. From birds to fish to reptiles, how can individuals choose the right pet that aligns with their mental health needs?

Think about your lifestyle and habits first.

Are you in college? Do you work a 9 to 5 in the office? Is your office pet friendly? What kind of living space do you have: apartment, town house, single family home, farm?

Do you exercise, if so what kind of exercise? Yoga, hiking, water sports, dance?

If you’re wanting to exercise more, a dog may be your ideal choice.

Do you need more peace and calmness? Fish may offer you some serenity from the sound of the water flowing from the filter to their graceful movements.

Some birds can talk, but all birds are expressive in their own way. They’re also extremely intelligent and highly social, forming a strong bond with their owner. They do require a lot of time, attention, and live relatively long lives.

Horses are one of the most popular therapy animals. They give the handler/rider immediate feedback and mirror their feelings and energy. Because of their size individuals are forced to trust them. They have been used in therapy dating back to 600 B.C. You will likely not choose a horse as a pet but for those with space and time, it could be a life changing option. Luckily for us horse therapy centers are easily accessible.

These animals serve a variety of mental health needs, there’s no one size fits all when it comes to animals and therapeutic value. Your mental health provider may help you in deciding which pet is best for you and your needs!

How does the act of taking care of a pet — feeding, grooming, exercising — contribute to an individual’s sense of purpose and mental well-being?

Taking care of a pet gives us something to focus on outside of our stressors, a reason to get up in the morning and enjoy life. Pets rely on us for a great quality of life and making a positive mark on their world. Making sure we give them that great quality of life makes us feel needed, wanted, and loved. We also feel good about making sure all their needs are met, a sense of accomplishment and pride.

Taking care of another living being activates the areas of our brains associated with pleasure, social connection, and trust. This releases endorphins. Taking care of a pet also creates a sense of belonging and reduces the feeling of isolation.

Establishing and Maintaining a Feeding, grooming, exercise, and play routine are all key points in keeping our pets happy and healthy.

Grooming takes some work and practice. Some pets don’t enjoy it, so working with your pet to gain confidence and trust in the process can be quite rewarding.

Exercise is necessary for pets, especially dogs and horses. Exercise has been proven to enhance not only our physical health but our mental health too. Going out for a jog, run, walk, bike ride, hike, etc. is extremely beneficial. Dogs get to burn off energy both mentally and physically. They use their nose to interpret their surroundings and gather information, this is great for mental exercise.

Putting your pet’s need above or equal to your own will teach you selflessness and enhance your feeling of purpose and well-being.

The past 5 years have been filled with upheaval and political uncertainty. Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. From your experience or research, what are your “Five Ways To Maximize the Mental Health Benefits of Having a Pet?” Can you please share a story or example for each?

1 . Go somewhere and do something or get outside. Being cooped up in the house is sure to drive even the homiest person crazy at some point. Take your dog on a walk through your neighborhood or a park, go to a pet friendly establishment like Home Depot, Homegoods, Michaels, pet friendly restaurants, breweries, or wineries.

Soak in the sun and let the wind blow through your hair.

During the pandemic we often searched for pet friendly restaurants and borderline lived there just to get out of the house. Lazy Dog Restaurant was one of the most frequent establishments we spent time at.

2 . Put down the phone. Be in the moment with your pet. Use this time to decompress and disconnect from the chaos of the world. When you’re out and about doing things or in the yard playing, don’t stay glued to your phone. Give your pet your undivided attention like they do for you.

3 . Join communities and clubs for your pet type. You can find local clubs and meet ups for just about anything these days. Check out Facebook too! Search google for events in your area that pertain to your interests.

4 . Train. Training your pet builds confidence, trust, and respect in the both of you. It sets boundaries and gives a clear understanding of what’s expected of your pet. It’s also FUN and engaging! Training is a great mental exercise as well. At first, you’ll notice your pet start to get tired after about 30 minutes to an hour. Once they understand what’s going on they’ll start to really enjoy the process. It’s a bonding experience that strengthens your relationship. Training requires complete attention, so this is another great opportunity to put the phone down and focus. This isn’t just limited to obedience training. Tricks, agility, and other sports such as tracking can be fun outlets to explore.

We like to use fieldtrips to HomeGoods and other pet friendly places as training opportunities and I have trained one of our dogs how to skateboard.

5 . Play. Don’t forget to have fun. Having a pet isn’t just about cleaning up after them, feeding, and grooming. It’s about the experience as a whole. Pets have a childlike persona about them. They’re fun, goofy, and eager to please most of the time. Pay attention to your pets’ little quirks, the things that make them special.

The loss of a pet can be deeply traumatic. How can individuals navigate this grief, and how does it compare to other forms of loss in terms of mental health impact?

I think a loss of a pet can sometimes even be more painful than the loss of a person, especially if the loss is unexpected versus old age. Some people may be quick to add another pet to their lives, others may shy away from it for a long time or never add another pet to the family again.

I think what’s most important is to not feel guilty during the loss of a pet. The time comes when we must say goodbye and we need to know that we’re making the best decision for our pet and the quality of life. We need to work through the grief at our own rate one day at a time.

Remember that grief doesn’t disappear, we grow around it and learn how to better manage it.

Talk about it with someone if you’re having a hard time adjusting. Don’t bear the weight of it alone.

Allow yourself time to express your feelings. Its ok to cry or get frustrated and angry.

Try finding some creative outlets to express your thoughts. Spend time with friends and loved ones.

Consider getting a special object in memory of your pet or a few.

If you have your pet cremated there are many different items that you can choose from. Jewelry pieces that hold a small amount of ashes, key chains, blown glass pieces made with pets’ ashes, and you can even have diamonds made from your pets’ ashes!!!!

Consider a frame that’s designed to hold your pet’s collar or item (favorite toy or blanket) with a photo of your pet.

Paw and nose prints are another great way to memorialize your pet.

If you’re interested in tattoos a memorial tattoo of your pet could be a fun way honor them.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of peace to the greatest amount of people, what would that be?

Disconnect, Slow Down, and Show More Kindness

Technology is ever changing and evolving. We have access to information at our fingertips.

We’re addicted to the instant gratification that social media gives us. We’re obsessed with what’s going to be the next trend and “how do I get insta famous.”

Relationships are failing due to our inability to disconnect from technology and the instant gratification with a mindset of “oh, on to the next one.” We’re in search of perfection but fail to remember that nothing is perfect and something great is something worth working for.

Unprovoked and unsolicited “keyboard warriors” flood the comments with nasty things that can be debilitating and even fatal, things that wouldn’t dare to be said in person. No one is immune to these things. I too have been attacked online and I’m sure it will happen again. I can imagine these hurtful comments are for the purpose of either getting views, likes, or stem from a lack of self-confidence, projecting their own pain on to others.

I have even seen accounts with disabled children trying to raise awareness for the conditions, being attacked and made fun of for something they were born with!

Everyone on Facebook (and elsewhere) has an opinion. We join groups to socialize, share ideas, and find support. I see more and more people leaving these groups designed to bring us together through a common interest due to a lack of kindness, empathy, and constant judgement.

I wish people would pass on things they don’t like or agree with rather than destroy a person’s day or break them down.

News and media outlets are overwhelming with global tragedies that invoke fear and worry.

I think it’s important to be informed on current events in our communities and the world but not to obsess over it to the point it affects our quality of life. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the chaos.

We can raise awareness and support our passions to try to make a change in a healthy way.

I challenge the world to disconnect from media and phones except for emergencies. Find new places to go, new foods to try, new hobbies to explore, volunteer with an organization that fits your passions. Maybe you disconnect for a few days, a week, or a month, maybe longer.

We could all be more grateful for the moments we have and share with each other as a community.

Slow down. Hold the door for the person behind you, smile, thank people in service (cashiers, wait staff, the person who washes your car), check in on your friends and remember the small things that let people know you really do care about them. One act of kindness could change the entire trajectory for someone.

We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them. :-)

Josh Groban would be incredible to have lunch with. In my teen and young adult years his music had a lot of impact on how I navigated life and got me through some very difficult and confusing times. His music gave me the feeling that I wasn’t alone, that someone was there with me to walk through the trenches when those I needed most were not.

You Raise Me Up has always been a fan favorite, however, I resonated more with some of his other work. The song “You are Loved” played on repeat often and was a huge part of my healing through many situations. Josh Groban’s version of “Vincent” also helped me to navigate the death of a loved one. Someone who was an important part of my life, someone who I needed to learn my own truths about. This song helped me through the process of finding the closure I needed, developing understanding and compassion, and reconnecting with people I was cut off from at an early age.

Although I’m no longer perusing music, his music was also a big part of my musical and dance studies.

Josh Groban’s music has continually offered comfort and peace through the years. His earlier albums remain my favorites.

Being able to express my gratitude and appreciation would be invaluable.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Instagram: @LePepiteFrenchies

Facebook: LePepiteFrenchies


Youtube: @lepepitefrenchies

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

About the Interviewer: Wanda Malhotra is a wellness entrepreneur, lifestyle journalist, and the CEO of Crunchy Mama Box, a mission-driven platform promoting conscious living. CMB empowers individuals with educational resources and vetted products to help them make informed choices. Passionate about social causes like environmental preservation and animal welfare, Wanda writes about clean beauty, wellness, nutrition, social impact and sustainability, simplifying wellness with curated resources. Join Wanda and the Crunchy Mama Box community in embracing a healthier, more sustainable lifestyle at .

← Older Post Newer Post →

Leave a comment