Editorial

Who knew dogs could keep you so healthy?

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Alas, we haven’t been a “dog family” since we had to euthanize poor old Turpy; but a time.com article titled “More Evidence That Owning A Dog Is Really Good For You” certainly grabbed my attention.

Not only can having a dog around the house lead to lower stress levels, decrease the risk of asthma in children and contribute to lower blood pressure, but the responsibility of caring for a canine can jolt older people out of a life-shortening sedentary lifestyle.

(Younger people? Owning a family dog USED to mean lots of romping and frolicking in the Great Outdoors. Now caring for a dog just jolts young couch potatoes into ordering a drone to walk the critter. But I digress.)

A recent study shows that older people who take their dogs for a walk take 2,760 steps more per day on average compared to non-owners. That’s an extra 23 minutes a day of moderate exercise!

(Granted, this is very close to the amount of time that we cat owners spend letting the cat in and out – and looking at the feline’s smug expression that says, “They thought Lincoln freed ALL the slaves? Puh-leeze.”)

The findings of that study were strengthened by even more recent research by the University of East Anglia and the Center for Diet and Activity Research at the University of Cambridge.

True, common sense should make such studies unnecessary; but every little reminder/nudge helps. There are probably people out there waiting with bated breath, thinking, “I wish the University of East Anglia and the University of Cambridge would give us some glimmer of indication whether we should leave the oven on while vacationing or give our Social Security number to a Nigerian general’s widow. Inquiring minds want to know!”

If you’re a self-identifying “older person” or care about someone who is, keep dog ownership in mind as a healthy lifestyle motivator. But, just as not every child gives high-quality lifelong support to an Easter rabbit, not everyone is prepared to care for “Man’s Best Friend.” Don’t be presumptuous and provide a dog without discussing it. (“He followed me home, Ma. Can YOU keep him?”)

Last year some anonymous kind soul dumped a mother dog and seven (!) puppies on my then-89-year-old mother. Only Shasta remains from the litter; but I’ve been foolhardy enough to take her on a few walks, and she could have a bright future competing in Truck & Tractor pulls. I guess whoever left those puppies thought they were giving my mother enough “moderate exercise” to re-create the Fountain of Youth and start singing “On The Good Ship Lollipop.”

A mutually beneficial dog/owner relationship is something to prize, but beware of the law of unintended consequences. If all older people start spending an extra 23 minutes a day away from the TV, Pat and Vanna may wind up having a sedentary lifestyle and eating dog food.

Enjoy the relatively inexpensive health benefits of dogs while you still can. “Big Pharma” is probably already investigating ways to horn in on the business. (“Who owns the patent on poodles? Let’s buy it up and raise the price of free puppies 10 zillion percent to cover research and development. What do you mean 10 zillion percent of zero is still zero? That’s a doggone travesty my congressman needs to look into! Somebody hand me his leash.”)

©2017 Danny Tyree. Danny welcomes email responses at tyreetyrades@aol.com and visits to his Facebook fan page