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BellaOnline's Dogs Editor

More Than Friendship

We are caretakers of the special dogs in our lives. We share our homes with them, do all we can to keep them safe and healthy, and love them. The rewards are great.... unconditional love, devotion, friendship beyond measure and a deep emotional bond.

Pets lift our spirits when everyday problems get us down. A loyal dog can be a source of consistency and help us feel safe in this ever-changing unpredictable world. Dogs are VERY good listeners.

Researchers have discovered that pets give us much more than love and companionship. Pets provide real health benefits. Non-pet owners have more persistent fears, increased feelings of panic and more frequent headaches. They take more drugs for stress-related illness than pet owners.

Itīs been shown that pet owners on Medicaid make fewer visits to their doctors than those without pets. According to a study in The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, caring for a dog or cat serves as a buffer against isolation and loneliness in elderly people. Senior pet owners are more physically active than those without pets. Pet-owners score higher in their ability to carry out the normal activities of daily living. The care-taking role involved in pet ownership provides older people with a sense of purpose and responsibility and may encourage them to be less apathetic and more active in day-to-day activities.

Hospitals and Nursing Homes are removing "No Dogs Allowed" signs from their doors and welcoming four-legged visitors. Nursing home patients who have regular visits from their pets are more receptive to treatment. Their pets bring them love, give them the incentive to recover and the will to live. Pets donīt care how we look or even how we act. They love us unconditionally.

Pets satisfy our human need for close physical contact and touching. Many hospitals and nursing homes use dogs as stress-reduction therapy. Research shows that just a few moments of stroking a dog significantly reduces stress levels and actually lowers blood pressure. Think of your dog as your personal therapist on call 24/7!

Volunteers from Pet-Assisted Therapy Services bring pets to nursing homes, facilities for disabled, hospital rehab wards, childrenīs hospitals , childrenīs shelters, etc. Visiting pets brighten the day for residents who eagerly await their visits. Animals can often reach people when human relationships are difficult. Depressed patients, when given a pet to play with, began to smile. Even Alzheimerīs patients who are emotionally isolated from those around them will reach out to pet a friendly furry little visitor.

Two studies have shown that owning a dog had a significant effect on survival after a heart attack. Patients who were admitted to the hospital with a heart attack were followed for one year. The researchers found that patients who were alive one year after leaving the hospital were more likely to own a dog. Because of findings like these, the recommendations doctors give patients as part of a recovery regimen are likely to be " quit smoking, avoid alcohol, lose weight, start a walking program, go on a sodium-restricted , low-cholesterol diet – and get a dog." According to a study of how psychological factors contribute to recovery rates for heart-disease patients, pet ownership ranked highest – above even such factors as a supportive spouse or family – in determining the patient’s prognosis for long-term survival.

Dogs keep us physically active. They get us off the couch and away from TV, or the computer and outside for fresh air several times a day.

Dr. Dog???
Researchers trained a Schnauzer named George to recognize cancer cells in a test tube, then under bandages on a personīs body, and finally in volunteer patients who had cancer. After being given the command "show me," George would sniff around the patient and finally place his paw on the tumor location. After being trained, George was able to sniff out cancer in a personīs body with close to 100 percent accuracy.

Paws With a Cause, a company in Wayland, Michigan, trains dogs for people with disabilities, including multiple challenges. Some time after training dogs for people with seizures, founder Mike Sapp noticed something quite amazing. Five of the dogs who they trained to react to an epileptic seizure, also learned to predict a seizure in their owner before it starts. They did this on their own! Read more about this in "The Healing Miracles of Medical Dogs" at Pet Smart.Com.

In his book,The Healing Power of Pets: Harnessing the Ability of Pets to Make and Keep People Happy and Healthy, Dr. Marty Becker, Good Morning Americaīs veterinary correspondent, blends revolutionary scientific discoveries like these with deeply moving, personal stories of pets and their owners - stories of people who have learned how to triumph over chronic pain, paralyzing phobias, sedentary lifestyles, and life-threatening conditions, through the unconditional love and companionship of a loyal animal. The Healing Power of Pets shows that the best medicine may not be in the medicine cabinet but at your side wagging itīs tail, if you know how to activate it. Dr. Becker includes a step-by-step guide that teaches pet lovers how to deepen their relationships with their pets.

Pet People Are Smarter???
Yes, itīs true.... People who grow up with pets are smarter than petless people. A scientific study conducted by Robert Poresky of Kansas State University found that families with pets produce children with higher IQs. An added benefit is a greater ability to empathize and understand other peopleīs feelings. No information is available on whether the relationship improves your petīs mental abilities.

Teaching children how to care for their pets also teaches them responsibility. Knowing that the dog he loves depends on him, and watching it thrive, gives a child a sense of accomplishment. Dogs are eager playmates too. Just as for adults, a dog is a good reason to get away from TV, video games and computers and get some exercise outdoors. When to get a dog, what kind, and more about kids and pets will be covered in future articles.

Shelter pets, saved from euthanasia, are helping troubled teens turn their lives around in a program called HALT, Humans and Animals Learning Together. At-risk adolescents from residential centers for treatment of substance abuse, behavior or alienation problems attend a four-week dog training course. They take full responsibilty for teaching basic obedience to carefully chosen dogs from local shelters. Following the completion of the training, the dogs are adopted into approved homes

Books for Dog Lovers

These are best read with a dog by your side for spontaneous hugging.

For the Love of a Dog: Understanding Emotion in You and Your Best Friend
The author of this book suggests that one of the reasons we love dogs so much is that they express emotions in ways similar to humans. But... not all emotional expressions are obvious, and both beginning dog owners and experienced dog lovers will learn how to read the more subtle canine expressions. For those of us who deeply cherish our dogs but are sometimes baffled by their behavior, For the Love of a Dog will come as a revelation... a treasure trove of useful facts, informed speculation, and intriguing accounts of man’s best friend at his worst and at his very best. Readers will discover how fear, anger, and happiness underlie the lives of both people and dogs and, most important, how understanding emotion in both species can improve the relationship between them. It introduces us to the possibility of a richer, more rewarding relationship with our dogs. While we may never be absolutely certain what our dogs are feeling, with the help of this riveting book we can understand more than we ever thought possible.

How To Speak Dog: Mastering the Art of Dog-Human Communication
Drawing on substantial research in animal behavior, evolutionary biology, and years of personal experience, the author demonstrates that the average pet dog can understand language at about the level of a two-year-old human. He shows us that a great deal of real communication is possible beyond the giving and obeying of commands. This book not only provides the sounds, words, actions, and move-ments with which we can effectively communicate with our dogs, but also deciphers the signs that our dogs give to us. With easy-to-follow tips on how humans can mimic the language dogs use to talk with one another, original drawings illustrating the subtleties of their body language, and a handy visual glossary and "Doggish" phrasebook, it gives dog lovers the skills they need to improve their relationships with their pets.

Do know a senior citizen whoīs life would be enriched with a pet?...

The Purina Pets for Seniors program provides the opportunity for senior citizens, to adopt a pet at little or no cost. The program helps to reimburse shelters for the cost of spaying or neutering, vaccinations, and additional adoption fees. Nearly 200 shelters are involved in this particular program nationally.

For the location of a participating shelter in your area, you call 1-877-737-7757.

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