There's a pie-sized hole in my cedar fence, an opening surprisingly crafted by the tiny teeth of my little mixed-breed dog, Boomer. Looking at his work, which includes numerous other chewed-up items, it is hard to appreciate the health benefits of pet ownership. Still, even a quick look at Facebook will confirm there are few things people are more devoted to than their furry companions.
The National Institutes of Health have compiled some of the more robust studies on the benefits of animal companionship. In one study, older people with pets walked faster and for longer periods than those without pets. Dog owners are more likely to be physically active and less likely to be obese — they are even more likely to be alive a year after a heart attack, no matter the severity, than those who don't have a dog. And if you have a pet, doggone it, people like you! Passersby are more likely to strike up a conversation, with all the ensuing benefits of social connectedness.
What are the secrets of the human-animal bond? In this issue, Carrie Scozzaro will introduce you to some of the region's "working" pets — animals trained to provide companionship, soothe anxiety and boost spirits in all kinds of settings.
To Your Health!