Thank goodness for dog ‘healing’

Health is a wonderful thing! Every morning when we wake up feeling well, we should give thanks for health and vigour.
But when you wake up energized and ready to go, it’s easy to take health for granted. It takes an illness to make a person realize how important health is.
I speak from recent experience.
After a long period of good health, I woke up with a high fever two weeks ago. I was chilled to the bone and had trouble putting words together.
The doctor immediately put me on a miracle drug—an antibiotic. But, unfortunately, the infection got worse and worse, so at 11 p.m. I was taken to the emergency room.
Dr. Cook minced no words. “This requires hospitalization,” he stated.
Fortunately, our small town has a state-of-the-art medical centre and I got the best possible treatment—from my primary physician, Dr. Goering, the women who tidied my room, and the nurses on duty.
I met so many wonderful people. It would have been a lot of fun if I hadn’t been so sick!
Gradually illness turned to wellness, mostly because of my caregivers and the medicines. But never discount the emotional component of wellness.
My room was filled with flowers. I had visitors, cards, and telephone calls. How could I stay sick with so many well-wishers!
And one thing that helped me very much was a greeting card that came from my friends, Harold and Esther. On the front was a facsimile of my sweet dog, Amber, and these words, “As they say in obedience school . . .”
Inside it said only “Heal!”
By the time the card came, I was at home sitting in my comfortable La-Z-Boy with my golden retriever mix dogs, Nina and Amber, hovering around me. They missed me so much, as only dogs can!
When I felt low, they kissed my hand. When everyone else left the room, they were there guarding me.
It reminded me of seven years ago when my beautiful white dog, Phoebe, cared for me after my stroke. I surely wouldn’t want to go through a serious illness without caring friends like Phoebe, Amber, and Nina.
The importance of dogs as healers is not just something I’ve imagined. Some hospitals allow dogs to visit patients for the psychological effect.
Now an American Heart Association study suggests that a dog visit might also have a physical effect.
Researchers at the UCLA Medical Center studied the effects of dog therapy on hospitalized heart failure patients. They found that a 12-minute visit with trained dogs improved cardiac function, reduced pressure in the heart and lungs, and lowered levels of harmful hormones being released into the blood stream.
The benefits of a dog visit even exceeded the benefits of a visit from a human volunteer. Patients who had bedside visits with dogs experienced a 24 percent drop in anxiety levels, compared to a 10 percent drop in anxiety following a human visit.
Lead researcher Kathie M. Cole said, “This study demonstrates that even a short-term exposure to dogs has beneficial effects on patients. They make people happier, calmer and feel more loved.
“That is huge when you are scared and not feeling well.”
So any time you feel under the weather, remember to invite your four-legged friends to help you “heal.”
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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