Monday, March 2, 2009

Having a Pet Can Add Years to Your Life!

Having a pet is good for your health.

OK, let’s all agree, it won’t cure cancer. And it probably won’t
lower your cholesterol. Oh, and don’t expect it to make you as fit at Lance
Armstrong. But being a dog owner can mostly definitely improve your
physical and emotional health. With very few side effects.
We’ll start with the physical benefits. For most of us, working out
isn’t at the top of the ‘‘favorite things’’ list. It’s tiring, it’s
time-consuming, it’s difficult at times, and it takes energy, which many of
us have less and less of as work commitments build up. Yet, it’s been
proven that exercise is crucial to cardiovascular health and weight
control, and can decrease your blood pressure and lower your cholesterol
and triglyceride levels.
Enter Rufus. For Rufus, a walk with you, whether it’s five minutes or
50, is the highlight of his boring, sleepy day. (Plus, he needs to pee and
poop, preferably not in your living room.) He’s ready whenever you are, and
rarely will he complain about being too tired, or too grumpy, or that’s
it’s too chilly outside. Your excuses for skipping exercise — you’re
PMSing, you’re too busy, your yoga pants are too tight — he doesn’t care.
All he wants is for you to walk with him.... no leg lifts, no squats. Just
walk. So you look into those soulful, pathetic brown dog eyes and you put
your sneakers on. And you go. And then you do it the next day, and the
next. And before you know it, you’re exercising daily and you’ve developed
a workout buddy without even knowing it. Who needs an expensive trainer
when you have a free one at home? And believe me, Rufus will NOT let you
get away with cheating on your routine. Trust me.
Maybe even greater than the physical benefits of having a dog are the
emotional benefits. First, there’s the increased opportunity for
socialization, whether it’s at the dog park, at the pet store, at the water
cooler at work (trading dog stories is one of the easiest paths toward
connecting with co-workers), or at dog obedience class. All dog owners have
an unspoken bond, and it’s easy to find equal ground when you’re reaching
for the poop bag. It’s one more way to feel connected to other humans.
The second emotional benefit? Unconditional love. It’s the most basic
of human desires, but it’s often so elusive. Some people spend a lifetime
searching for it. Funny thing is, it’s simple to find. The nearest dog
shelter has an unlimited supply. All you’ve got to do is open your heart to
and your home. It seems strange that not everyone doesn’t advantage of such
an offer.
Most dog owners know that the emotional bond between dog and owner
can be intense. It’s true love/responsibility/parenthood/companionship all
rolled into one. A few people I know are closer to their dogs than they are
to any humans in their life, and seem as happy and well-adjusted (or more
so) as anyone else. The bottom line? That emotional connection can serve to
ease depression, anxiety, or stress, build confidence, enhance a sense of
well-being, and create a happy, accepting, joyful environment to live in.
So here’s your choice: ten years of expensive therapy or adopting a goofy,
needy black Lab? Seems like an easy decision.
Veterinarians, animal behaviorists, and researchers have presented
studies and written pages of anecdotal evidence on the physical and mental
health benefits of owning a dog, and I could write a book about it. But no
need. Simply go get yourself a dog. Take him for walks. Let him sleep at
your feet. Talk to him like he understands every word you’re saying. And
love him. You’ll need no evidence. You’ll need no book.
In fact, you could write your own.

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