Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 9/6/2010 (3445 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Any pet owner will tell you that after the hustle and bustle of everyday life, there's nothing like coming home to a big ball of fur that is happy to see you, eager to hear about your day and content to snuggle up with you on the sofa. Our pets do something to help us unwind that goes beyond simple companionship.
Pets have an impact on our health. Studies show that pet owners are less likely to have medical problems than non-pet owners. Researchers have found that people who own pets are more likely to exercise regularily and get active. Our pets are more than just walking companions, they are someone to play with, someone to throw a ball for and someone to simply get us off the couch!
Research shows that pets have a very real impact on our health. They lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol and triglycerides levels, and help prevent cardiovasular disease. Many studies have found that animals can enhance our mood, stimulating feel good endorphens through the simple act of being near us.
One study tracking stress levels in patients found physical stress reactions dramatically reduced when patients pet a cat or dog.
Pets are good for the heart — when measuring cardiovascular stress, subjects in one study experienced a greater reduction in stress in a presence of a dog than they experienced with friends and even spouses in the room! There are so many documented cases of health benefits that are experienced by pet owners. One study linking pets to longevity found pet owners experience an increased survival rate after myocardial infarction.
It's no wonder that dogs have become part of therapy programs world-wide. Children undergoing major operations have shown a significantly reduction in perceived pain after participating in therapy programs and after as little as five minutes of interaction with a therapy dog, the health care professionals showed a reduction in cortisol (a stress hormone).
One study, conducted with elderly schizophrenic patients who participated in animal-assisted therapy showed patiences that spent time with animals were more likely to show independent self-care, mobility and interpersonal contact.
More than the impact they have on our physical health, pets have an impact on our mental well-being as well. Following a quiet 30-minute session interacting with a pet, subjects show an increase in dopamine and endrophins associated with happiness. In one study conducted with patients with AIDS, patients reported the therapy cats were an important part of moral support and they kept them from feeling lonely. Mobility impaired individuals report feeling the "freedom to be capable" with an assistance dog, and Alzheimer's patients living with pets had fewer mood disorders and fewer episodes of anxiety than non-pet owners.
Dogs don't have to be purebred, they don't have to be athletic and they don't event have to be obedience trained to be therapy dog. They simply need to be friendly, well socialized and polite. Therapy dog programs are perfect for middle aged and older dogs that are relatively calm, gentle and easy to handle.
Locally, our St. John's Ambulence has a Therapy Dog Program, offering dog owners the opportunity to share their pets with others.
One of Funds for Furry Friends rescue dogs — once an unwanted dog — has found more than just a forever home with her adopter.
Flipper, a six-year-old border collie has become a visiting dog in a local manor in the community where she was adopted, and she has touched so many lives. Many patients in the manor refuse to book doctor's appointments on the days of Flipper's visits, and people who are normally quite and disengaged become animated and elated when Flipper arrives.
Several of the patients have a stash of dog treats in their room to share with Flipper when she arrives and she seems to light up the lives of everyone she says hello to!
One stroke patient with severely limited mobility would make an effort to scrunch up her fingers and work to give Flipper a chin rub when she came close.
It's truly amazing to see how this gal was able to truly "pay it forward."
Those who ask what difference does it make saving just one have not witnessed the joy of the one who is saved! —Anonymous
Dana Grove is an animal lover who works with several pet organizations in Brandon.