Forget the pain and heart pills, get a dog

Posted 11/16/23

Warning: This is another column about dogs.

I know I’ve written a lot about canines over the last two weeks: a story featuring Hillary Gillinder of Rhody Home Adopt who has fostered 250 …

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Forget the pain and heart pills, get a dog


Warning: This is another column about dogs.

I know I’ve written a lot about canines over the last two weeks: a story featuring Hillary Gillinder of Rhody Home Adopt who has fostered 250 dogs in the course of six years who I met at the rescue event hosted by Dogtopia in Warwick, and the Always Adopt production a week ago Saturday where rescue groups brought 300 dogs. A total of 274 were adopted that day.

That’s a lot of copy about dogs, but I’m not going to let you come up for air just yet.

I’m blaming Saturday’s edition of the Wall Street Journal.

I couldn’t help myself when I turned to page 4 of the weekend review section. I burst out laughing. There in print – yes, print can make you laugh – beneath the headline, “How dogs help us lead longer, healthier lives” was a four column photo of seven dogs. They seemed to be all the same breed, a Bassett Hound mix with a white face, floppy ears and short stubby legs. All seven are looking directly at the camera from poses that vary from the arm rest of a sofa where his or her nearby clone is stretched out with a blanket folded on the back rest. Another clone lies on an ottoman with an open book on the wood floor, obviously irritated to have been interrupted.  Companion clones wear expressions from “I’m just fine, leave me,” to “okay, when do I get a treat?”

Even before reading the article, I showed the picture to Carol, who was on a mission to find something she knew she had placed in a “safe place.” She was in no mood to look at a newspaper, but I insisted. She brightened right away and started laughing.  See, the effect of dogs.

Hooked, I had to read how getting a dog (adopting I should say because that’s what we’ve always done) would lead us to longer and healthier lives.

Authors of the article are Jen Golbeck and Stacey Colino, who according to an accompanying  brief description are the founder of the social media platform “The Golden Ratio” and a science writer respectively. The article is adapted from their book, “The Purest Bond: Understanding the Human-Canine Connection” published on Nov. 14.

“It’s not that dog-owners are naturally healthier,” they write, “bringing a dog into your life somehow brings along those benefits along.”

They proceed to cite a variety of studies that followed pet owners and recorded their health. One 10-month study conducted in the UK found there was a significant reduction in minor health problems including difficulty sleeping, headaches , indigestion and sinus trouble within the first month of introducing a cat or dog to the home.  That all sounds conjectural and hardly scientifically-based…maybe even wishful thinking on the part of new pet owners who likely had to put up with chewed or scratched furniture, food snatched from the table and discovering wet spots when walking barefoot on their carpets.

But Golbeck and Colino turn to a 2018 study performed by biostatistician Alexandra Sitarik who collected dust samples from 54 family homes half of which had a dog. Dust is not one of those things that bothers me although I do like vacuum cleaners and the satisfaction of watching them suck up debris. Carol is quite content to let me have my “vac-attacks,” as the kids dubbed them. Since we lost Ollie in July, however,  I’ll confess I haven’t had many “vac-attacks.” It’s just not as dusty.

What the Sitarik study found is that in homes with dogs there’s “a higher percentage of variation in bacterial dust composition,” including traces of Moraxella, Porphyromonas, Caspnocytophaga, Fusobacterium, Streptococcus and Treponema bacteria.  That all sounded bad to me until I read research suggests that dust from homes with dogs may influence the immune system accounting for the finding that children who grew up with dogs in their household are less likely to develop allergies , eczema or asthma.  The article goes on to cite a Swedish study of 1,000 children between the ages of 7 and 8 of which 49 percent of those without a pet went on to develop allergies. That number dropped to 43 percent with those who had one pet and 24 percent for those with three pets.

What about old geezers; did owning a dog make them any healthier?

The authors found research that suggests having a dog is associated with lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels leading to the partial explanation why dog ownership is associated with a 31 percent decreased risk of death from cardiovascular disease.

Golbeck and Colino cite other studies and conclude, “besides having specific effects on health, your relationship with your dog may alter your attitude toward health and life in general.”  They suggest you may feel inspired to improve your lifestyle and stress-management habits, and taking better care of yourself for “the sake of your beloved pooch.”

I see it my neighborhood. There are those who run their dog pedaling a bike…or is the dog pulling the bike? Some walk with a dog in a stroller as it couldn’t make it on its own and others patiently let their dogs lead them.

Guess what?

The dog owners all look healthy. It’s time to adopt and clean out the medicine cabinet.

side up, dogs, adoption


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