Posted by Diane Peterson

Almost everyone would tend to agree that animals provide an intrinsic sense of comfort to our lives. This can range from observing wildlife in nature, even for the briefest moment, to having a domestic animal in our homes. For the sake of simplicity, this article will focus on the one specific pet which has been generally associated with the American family; “the dog”. The presence of this animal seems to provide a benefit to our health in a variety of ways, either through the emotional contexts we experience or from the participation in the physical activities shared with this multi-dimensional creature. There always appears to be a degree of innocence with the domesticated canine. They manage to extend their patience with us, allowing the implementation of our jokes and antics to often rain down upon them. Somehow they just gaze back at us with the expression; “Whatever”. In many ways, this animal exhibits what the human race seems to have lost; patience, forgiveness and unconditional love. 

How this influences our health may often been observed in our daily activities. When we need emotional support, we often speak out to our dog and seek out its acceptance. At times, there seems to be no greater presence in a medical institution which can levy such a positive outlook than a dog, proudly sporting its “identification” vest. 

The amount of clinical studies devoted to analyzing the health benefits of dogs in our lives is far too many to cover here, but the vast majority of these studies have clearly indicated the benefits which dogs relinquish for us lowly humans. 

One particular research exercise conducted was to map how high intensive stressful invents would affect the endocrine system of the human species. Specific measurements were analyzed, such as cortisol levels, glycemic values and mood modulators. When these test subjects were exposed to dogs in the testing field immediately following the stressful stimuli, these levels normalized dramatically quicker than with no exposure at all. Similar studies also indicate brain wavelength patterns “normalize” and remain consistent more often when stimulated by the presence of our friend, the dog. Other research indicates fewer depression cases, less anxiety, better sleep and even healthier relationships with spouses when humans have pets (dogs) as companions. 

Regarding the latter, it is also true that we tend to miss our dog more than our spouse when we are void of both their presence. “If I lock both my spouse and my dog in the trunk of the car and leave them for twenty minutes, which one would be happy to see me when I open the trunk?”  This statement carries a lot of validity for how we are accepted by our dog. 

Perhaps the dog does not require any degree of time frames. When you put them in the car they don’t know if it will be for ten minutes or ten hours. This certainly impacts our own stress level as it is full (usually) compliance by our pet on what we want as humans.

Besides the emotional benefits these creatures relinquish for us is their seemingly keen awareness of detecting health abnormalities in others (humans). Almost all of us are aware of the situations where dogs can detect cancer using their sense of smell. This most likely occurs due to the odor emitted from necrotic tissue or neoplastic growth. Even the dog’s salvia has been analyzed and has been recognized to possess a degree of anti-pathogenic qualities. 

In one sense, these creatures also tend to teach us, perhaps subconsciously, about certain innate behaviors of health care. As an example, several postural positions exercised by dogs have been plagiarized by the yoga community; upward dog, downward dog and so on. The presence alone of this pet resonates, to a certain degree, a sense of clear association with the natural world, which inevitably can support a healthy lifestyle if we pay close enough attention. 

And when they pass on, leaving their legacy with us……….we begin to understand deep feelings we never thought we had or possibly could ever possess. The fragility of love, hidden by the stacking of years passed by, which we are so afraid to expose, is displayed when they thank us for our care and pass on. 

They are truly an awesome display of health care for us humans.

 

- By Kevin Meehan