A special friend can help you stay healthy

My house is far from perfect. I often have two or three stuffed toys littering the living room rug. My back door is badly scratched. The kitchen floor is frequently covered with muddy paw prints.
And when I go out, there is always white fur clinging to my black coat.
But I don’t mind at all.
Earlier this week, I got a spring catalogue from Orvis clothing store. Orvis sells wonderful upscale clothing, and I buy my most important outfits from their catalogue—swimming suits for my daily water aerobics class.
But this time, there was something more important than beautiful clothing on the catalogue pages. Several of the models were featured with cuddly, adoring dogs.
A picture of a model with three adorable yellow lab puppies was entitled, “Dogs in our lives.”
Accompanying the picture was an essay by Orvis Associate Paul Fersen.
“We lovers of dogs are a tolerant lot, finding greater value in the unabashed affection of our friend than immaculate sofas,” he wrote.
“Without dogs, our houses are cold receptacles of things. Dogs make a fire warmer with their curled presence. They wake us, greet us, protect us, and ultimately carve a place in our hearts and history.”
That’s why I don’t mind when my welcoming dog is so eager to see me that she scratches the back door. And why I don’t mind having to brush my coat every time I go out.
My wonderful friend, Phoebe, is more important to me than any “things” I own.
She wakes me with a kiss. She greets me with a wagging tail when I come home. She barks when danger is near. And she certainly has carved a place in my heart and my history.
But, best of all, Phoebe is contributing to my healthy aging.
There’s plenty of research supporting the idea that dog owners live longer, healthier, and happier lives. The U.S. National Institute of Health reports that people with pets make fewer trips to the doctor than people who don’t have pets.
Studies have shown that the simple act of petting a dog lowers blood pressure and heart rate.
And an Australian study discovered heart attack survivors who owned dogs had a one-year survival rate six times higher than heart attack patients who didn’t have dogs.
Relating to a dog also can relieve pain, reduce stress, lower triglycerides, enhance your immune system, guard against loneliness, and postpone the aging process.
Add to that the pure enjoyment and fun you get from your canine friend, and you’ll understand how important dogs can be to older people. And, for that matter, to anyone.
Where else can you find such a loyal, non-judgmental, affectionate friend—a friend who brings a smile to your face with a tail that won’t stop wagging. Companionship, exercise, better health, and social interaction are a few of the many benefits older people derive from furry friends.
If you aren’t able to have a pet or don’t want one, you’ll have to work very hard to make sure that you have lots of companionship, exercise, and relaxation in your life.
All of these things can help you age healthy.
Marie Snider is an award-winning health care writer and syndicated columnist. Write her at thisside60@aol.com or visit www.visit-snider.com

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