I love animals, especially dogs!  Having had dogs all my life, I have been rewarded with friends that gave me unconditional love and devotion.  We know what we have to do to take care of our pets, (feed, water, bathe, spoil, to name a few duties), but do we really appreciate what they do for us?

Marty Becker, DVM, author of The Healing Power of Pets, states that “the breadth and depth of what dogs do to benefit humans’ happiness and longevity is pretty remarkable”.  Studies have shown that dog ownership can lower blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels.  Dr. Becker also says,  “Petting a dog is like a spa treatment.  In a short time there is a massive release of positive neurochemicals like dopamine and serotonin.  And the dog gets the same relief, as well.”

My dog expects to have an early morning walk every day, and he is very disappointed when we don’t get to go.  By having this routine, I consider him as my personal trainer.  He has a great time, and I am getting a regular pattern of exercise.  Also, we see a lot of nice people as we are out getting fresh air and sunshine.

Many nursing homes allow pet therapy, as their residents enjoy petting puppies, kittens, and service animals, some being especially trained just for that purpose.  And, speaking of service animals, we cannot overlook the valuable role rescue dogs played after 9-11.  Our military and police consider their dogs as important team members.  In addition to being service companions, dogs are also contributing to medicine, from detecting cancer to predicting epileptic seizures.

Cats can also have medicinal effects.  Cats love to snuggle up to their owners, and when humans aren’t feeling well, the warmth of their bodies (101.5°) and their purring at 25 vibrations per second, can many times lower blood pressure by their soothing presence.  Cats are low maintenance, and many physicians feel that children that grow up with cats may not have as many allergies as those who have not been exposed to cat/dog fur.

So, thank your furry friends for all they do to contribute to your health and happiness.  Something I read the other day sums it all up: “We do not have to wait for Heaven to be surrounded by hope, love and joyfulness: it is here on earth and has four legs!”

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