Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

feeling fine

Healthy pets are good for your health

Writer Bob Clark’s skateboarding dog Chili and her junior handler, Lina Bowers, 8, practice together for their upcoming performance at the AKC Eukanuba National Championship in Orlando next month. Clark is a lifetime dog owner.

Bob Clark | Special to the Times

Writer Bob Clark’s skateboarding dog Chili and her junior handler, Lina Bowers, 8, practice together for their upcoming performance at the AKC Eukanuba National Championship in Orlando next month. Clark is a lifetime dog owner.

How much do we love our dogs? Well, last year we spent around $55 billion on pets, according to the New York Times. Roughly half of that went to the care and feeding of dogs, reports the American Pet Products Association. • What do we get for our investment, besides unconditional love? Here are some proven health benefits of living with pets:

Lower health care costs People with pets actually make fewer doctor visits, especially for nonserious medical conditions, a National Institutes of Health report found.

Less depression Pets help people who might feel there's no point to anything take more of an interest in life. For instance, studies show that when seniors face adversity or trauma, affection from pets can foster a sense of security, write the authors of Between Pets and People: The Importance of Animal Companionship.

Stress be gone Walking with a pet soothes nerves and offers instant relaxation. Studies conducted worldwide have shown that the impact of a stressful situation is less on pet owners, especially males, than on those who do not own a pet, according to the Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition in the U.K.

Lonely no more A survey by the American Veterinary Association found that nearly 50 percent of respondents considered their pets to be companions, while only 2 percent thought of them as property.

Healthier Hearts Because pets provide people with faithful companionship, research shows they may also provide their owners with greater psychological stability, thus a measure of protection from heart disease, according to the National Institutes of Health.

As a lifetime dog owner, I can tell you that dogs can be first-rate healers. I have dozens of stories to back that up. Here's just one:

When I was principal of an elementary school, my golden retriever Honey and I would stand in front of school every day to greet students. I often had to remind students to shake my hand after they shook Honey's paw. She was a charmer. On the first day of school one year, a trembling first-grader refused to get out of the car. His dad pleaded, coaxed, bribed. Nothing worked; the boy seemed stuck to the back seat.

Tail wagging, Honey went over to the open rear door, jumped in the car and put her head in the boy's lap. That did it. Tears turned to laughter, the boy trotted into school with a smile and had a faithful friend waiting for him every school day for the next six years. She made him forget himself and find his joy.

In more serious situations, trained therapy dogs can reach people in physical or psychological crisis who have retreated to a mental zone where people can't seem to get in. Dogs have a way of entering that space and coaxing people out. Dogs can even be trained to accompany and assist people who suffer from seizures. The dog can sense an oncoming seizure before the person can and be there to respond and summon aid.

As the debate about how to improve patient care and make it affordable continues, dogs offer a potent healing element we all seek: love. Dogs love us without preconditions, without judgment. They coax joy and unselfishness out of us when we're in a dark place. They forgive. They get us up and out. They watch over us.

All they need in return is food, shelter, care and devotion. Now that's an affordable plan.

Bob Clark is a Christian Science practitioner from Belleair. Read his blog at flcompub.org/blog, and check out his skateboarding dogs, Twig and Chili, at twigskates.com.

Healthy pets are good for your health 11/16/12 [Last modified: Friday, November 16, 2012 3:30am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Video: Rays Souza on that oh-so-bad dive, and reaction from Twins fans

    Blogs

    What was Rays RF Steven Souza Jr. thinking when he made that oh-so-bad dive for a ball in the seventh inning Friday? Well, we'll let him tell you ...

  2. What was Rays RF Steven Souza Jr. thinking on that comically bad dive?

    Blogs

    What could Rays RF Steven Souza Jr. been thinking in the seventh inning Friday when he dove for a ball and came up yards short?

    Actually, he insisted after all the laughing, teasing and standing ovation from the Twins fans was done, it was a matter of self-preservation.

  3. Judge tosses life sentences for D.C. sniper Lee Boyd Malvo

    Nation

    McLEAN, Va. — A federal judge on Friday tossed out two life sentences for one of Virginia's most notorious criminals, sniper Lee Boyd Malvo, and ordered Virginia courts to hold new sentencing hearings.

    A federal judge has tossed out two life sentences for D.C. sniper shooter Lee Boyd Malvo. [Associated Press, 2004]
  4. Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Carter's national security adviser, dies

    News

    Zbigniew Brzezinski, the hawkish strategic theorist who was national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter in the tumultuous years of the Iran hostage crisis and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the late 1970s, died on Friday at a hospital in Virginia. He was 89.

    Zbigniew Brzezinski, former national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter, participates in Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Capitol Hill on March 5, 2009, in Washington, D.C. [Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images]
  5. USF eliminated by UCF in AAC baseball; Florida, FSU, Miami win

    Colleges

    CLEARWATER — Roughly 16 hours after a ninth-inning collapse against East Carolina in the American Athletic Conference's double-elimination baseball tournament, USF returned to Spectrum Field presumably set for a reboot.

    It simply got booted instead.

    ’NOLES win: Tyler Holton gets a hug from Drew Carlton after his strong eight innings help Florida State beat Louisville.