5:56 AM: Pad, pad, pad, pad. Nudge. THUMP! Paw, wiggle, wuffle. (Bingley)
5:58 AM: Wuffle, wuffle, wuffle, wuffle, nudge, wuffle, poke. (Hudson)
6:00 AM: “I’m up. I’m up. I’m up. Good morning boys!” (Me)
Thus starts another day in the Smith household as I am poked, prodded, whispered to, and assaulted with gifts of tennis balls, by the beasts who set the rhythm of my life. Summer is a relatively easy time to slide out of bed at 6 am, but come the long days surrounding the winter solstice, I am reluctant, at the very least, to relinquish my snug recumbency. And yet, even on my most reluctant mornings, I find that getting up and taking care of the dogs is as good for me as it is for them. There is a quiet rhythm to our routine that satisfies and cares for all of us.
Their needs are a daily reminder of what I also need to be happy and healthy. Good nutrition, plenty of fresh water, daily exercise, companionship, naps, chew toys, rolling in dead weasel….well perhaps we differ a bit on entertainment choices, but if you look past the differences (after all there is no accounting for taste…) the reality is that owning and caring for a pet dog keeps you healthier and happier in a variety of ways.
According to an article on Active.com (http://www.active.com/fitness/articles/are-dog-owners-healthier-people):
The Journal of Physical Activity & Health found that dog owners are more likely to reach their fitness goals than those without canine companions. Researchers at Michigan State University found that dog owners are 34 percent more likely to fit in 150 minutes of walking per week than non-dog owners. The study also found that owning a dog promotes health and fitness even after you take your pup for a stroll, increasing leisure-time physical activity by 69 percent.
Dog ownership can also help prevent chronic diseases such as diabetes, autoimmune diseases, and allergies. “Dog owners who walk their dogs regularly have one-third the risk of diabetes than those who don’t own a dog, according to exercise scientist, Cindy Lentino…Researchers at the University of Cinncinati College of Medicine found that children from families with a history of allergies are less likely to develop eczema and asthma (atopy) if they grow up with a pet dog starting at birth.”
Management of chronic diseases and recovery from surgery or a medical condition (such as a heart attack) is also enhanced by the presence of canines. “Loyola university researchers found that people who regularly petted dogs needed 50 percent less pain medication when recovering from surgery.” And, a “study from the National Institutes of Health found dog owners had a better one-year survival rate following a heart attack than non-dog owners…Other studies “show that the mere act of petting a dog decreases blood pressure.”
Dogs are good for our mental health as well. They keep us engaged with the world by getting us out the door for walks and they are a great conversation starter! I cannot walk my three pups downtown without someone coming up to meet them. It’s a great way to get me out of my own head and connected with the world around me.
Being close with a dog helps improve human relationships. Studies find that owning and walking a dog increases social interaction. Dogs help ease people out of social isolation or shyness, says Nadine Kaslow, PhD, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University in Atlanta…Children who experience caring for a dog have higher levels of empathy and self-esteem than children without pet dogs, shows child psychologist Robert Bierer.
So, next time your dog nudges you to get up and play, take a walk, or just to say “I love you” remember that the interactions you have with your dog today can keep you healthier, help you live longer, and make your life a whole lot happier.