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Science Says Owning a Dog Can Help You Live Longer

Lea Lomas

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While there may not be a magic pill you can take to make you younger or a fountain of youth, there are dogs. Dogs just might be the next thing to get you to live longer. A new review with almost 70 years of published research in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes says that owning a dog can help extend your life by up to 24%.

Over the past years, there have been a number of studies that look at longevity and dog ownership but results on these studies haven’t been consistent. Dr. Caroline Kramer, the lead author of the review, said that she was looking at the evidence across the board and wondering if the results were reliable and felt it was a good opportunity for some further study.

The analysis took a look at studies that were published between 1950 and May 2019 to examine the connection between mortality and dog ownership. Over that time frame, researchers looked at 10 studies with a total of 3.8 million participants. As it turns out, dog owners have a 24% reduced risk of mortality for all causes compared to those who don’t own dogs. The review also looked at the benefits of dog ownership for those who had strokes or heart attacks. For these people, having a dog is even more beneficial. There is a 31% reduced risk of dying from cardiovascular diseases. Dog owners had a 65% reduced risk of death after having a heart attack. Since the World Health Organization says that strokes and heart attacks are the leading cause of death, this makes owning a dog a lifesaver in many cases.

The 70 years of research has found there are many health benefits to owning a dog. Some of the studies suggest that individuals who own dogs have lower blood pressure and a better cholesterol profile. Kramer said her favorite study found that just petting a dog can reduce blood pressure as much as some medication.

Studies don’t exactly prove that dog ownership is the direct cause of a longer life but there is plenty of speculation as to why dog owners usually live longer. Cardiovascular health relies on implementing healthier behaviors and doing so as soon as possible. These behaviors include exercising and quitting smoking. Dog ownership can be part of these healthy behaviors. Taking your dog on a walk is an important part of dog ownership, which means that owners get more exercise. Studies have shown that dog owners who walk their dogs get about 30 minutes more of exercise every day than owners who don’t walk their dogs. While dog-walking services may be convenient and needed for certain people, it’s not helping you live a longer life.

Dogs can also help owners with companionship. Social isolation and loneliness are strong factors for premature death and pets can help alleviate this. Dog owners do better recovering from a stroke or heart attack. Also, single dog owners have to do all the dog walks and this physical activity is important after a heart issue or a stroke.

There are many other benefits of dog ownership that could contribute to a healthier and longer life besides just exercise. There is a reason why therapy dogs are effective since spending just a few minutes with a dog can lower anxiety and increase the levels of dopamine and serotonin. Those who perform stressful tasks do better when there is a dog around and studies show that dogs can ease the tension felt by married couples as well as in the office.

Dogs may even be able to detect a variety of different illnesses and debilitations. This really proves that dogs are man’s best friend after all. 

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Animals

Who Rescued Who?

Mackenzie Freeman

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Susan Luong first discovered the power of dogs helping a patient heal, as a young child, when she was treated, in the hospital, for juvenile polymyositis. After volunteering her time at various shelters, Susan came to understand the challenges that exist with dogs who are left behind due to medical or behavioral issues. Susan’s time at the shelter taught her about patience, care, and training behavioral issues out of dogs to make them more adoptable. Her time at the shelters also fueled her desire to rescue dogs with medical, or behavioral issues–especially corgis.

Susan and her husband eventually adopted a corgi of their very own. The seller failed to tell them the corgi they adopted was not as advertised. Told the dog they were adopting was a 2-year-old corgi with no health issues, they later discovered the dog they adopted was almost a senior citizen! In addition, the dog they adopted, Oliver, was far from healthy, with a cost of nearly $2,000 for just his medical issues alone! In addition to his medical concerns, Oliver had aggression issues with Susan and her husband, other dogs, and strangers, too! Friends and family tried talking Susan and her husband into giving Oliver up, but instead, they upped their training.

Eva came to them almost two years later with similar behavior issues. Like Oliver, Susan and her husband trained Eva until they eliminated all of her aggressive behaviors. Amazingly, they trained both dogs so well, they each obtained an American Kennel Good Citizenship Award! Having successfully rehabilitated both Oliver and Eva, Susan founded Queen’s Best Stumpy Dog Rescue (QBSDR), a non-profit focused on rehabilitating corgis. Each dog that comes to the shelter is tested against her own dogs to determine its temperament. The results of that test become the foundation for each corgi’s personalized training to make the dogs more adoptable.

Adoption events, monthly hikes, community events, and even a special beach day just for corgis are sponsored by Queen’s Best Stumpy Dog Rescue. Corgi Beach Day is one of two annual events designed to educate prospective adoptees about corgis and the potential health or behavioral ailments that may occur down the road. Approximately 800 corgis hit the beach running at each of their two Corgi Beach Days — one for Northern California, and one for Southern California. Anyone wanting to adopt one of the corgis must go through a very-detailed five-part process: complete an application with as much detail as possible; answer any additional questions that QBSDR has about the application; submit to a home inspection designed to ensure no safety issues exist; come to the QBSDR facility with current pets and all household family members; and, once approved, receive whichever adoptable corgi that QBSDR feels will best suit the corgi’s needs, and the people’s personalities and lifestyles. This level of detail is very important to ensure the best possible fit between the corgi and its forever parents.

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Animals

California Sets the Pace on Store-Bought Puppies from Mills

Mackenzie Freeman

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Imagine you had your heart set on an adorable new puppy you spotted at your local pet store. They give you those charming eyes and irresistible body movements that win you over, except no matter how set you are on ‘buying’ a new dog, you need its history and background. Every pet store has to provide the origins of the pup, their breed mix, and any additional facts and information about the dog.

Full disclosure is now becoming mandatory for pet shop owners when selling any puppies that have not been born or bred in puppy mills. California is setting the pace for this practice, and hopefully more states will follow the mandatory law. When Governor Brown was still in office in 2017 he signed a bill to prevent the practice of acquiring new pups from inhumane situations be sold at their stores. The law went into effect in October of this year, 2019.

What are the details?

The large-scale operations where most of the pet store puppies arrive from are less than humane. For instance, conditions at most puppy mills are so unsanitary that dogs sit in cramped cages, their treatment is borderline abusive, and its sad. Most breeders are concerned about one thing: profit. They push out dog after dog in an effort to increase their bottom line, only to have the original mother of the pups overwhelmed and possibly contracting illnesses. 

Every breeder is different. Oftentimes, their intentions to sell high quality dogs to people are sound and true, yet once they decide to attract the pet store owners with the “reject” puppies, the pet shop receives the undesirables and tries to sell them at top dollar. Instead of placing the extra or unwanted pups in a shelter, the breeders go straight to the pet stores.

Well, all of that is changing in California. No longer will one of the estimated 10,000 puppy mills in the United States be able to sell to pet shop owners. The ban is now in effect. Every dog, cat, rabbit, or other exotic animal sold in pet stores must be obtained from shelters or rescue organizations.

It’s a giant step forward for animal activist groups, who have been pushing for this measure for several years. The Humane Society, PETA, and the national ASPCA support the bill and its verbiage. Banning breeders is not without controversy however, as the Pet Industry Advisory Council (who opposes the bill) feels it may put several breeders out of business altogether. Their worry is how the new legislation may put well-intended breeders in an evil light, also claiming the bill removes consumer protections.

Where do we go from here?

Since California tends to set the tone for many environmental causes and issues people mostly care about, the new law has pros and cons for all concerned. If there are responsible and humane private breeders willing to comply, they’re also able to continue selling puppies to private citizens desirous of a healthy breed and who doesn’t believe the price tag is over their budget.

A direct sale of puppies to pet stores isn’t in the offing anymore, and those breeders who have amassed a multi-dimensional business have to go elsewhere to direct their sales. California is the first state to enact this law, however more states are beginning to follow suit. Eliminating puppy mills within its borders is a celebration for shelters and rescue organizations as well. 

If the trend continues, no longer will puppies have to sit for days on end in awful conditions. They are saved!

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Animals

Popular Mini Horse Cheers Up Children at Local Children’s Hospital in Michigan

Leslie Tander

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Nobody enjoys being in the inpatient unit of a hospital and for children, this experience can be downright scary. Fortunately, there are lots of volunteers who donate their time to help children make this experience just a little bit easier. Some volunteers dress up in costumes to help children who are having a rough time. Others might show up bearing gifts that can help children get through their stay. Other volunteers play musical instruments, trying to cheer up the kids. Sometimes, help comes in the form of a popular animal. Kids love animals and Fred the Mini Horse is one of the most popular guests at the local Michigan Children’s Hospital.

Horseback riding is a great activity both recreationally and competitively; however, even being around a horse can place a smile on someone’s face. This is what happened from Fred the Mini Horse showed up at the local Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Fred the Mini Horse was instantly the star of the show when he arrived. This tiny horse belongs to an organization called Little Horses Big Smiles. This is a nonprofit organization that operates out of Fremont, MI. This organization is dedicated to training and providing mini horses for a variety of purposes. In this case, Fred the Mini Horse is training to be a dedicated service animal who can help people all over the pace. Fred the Mini Horse did exactly that when he made his way around the floors of the local children’s hospital. The nonprofit organization has already spent a lot of time with the children’s hospital, knowing that there are lots of patients there who could use a little bit of extra love and attention. It turns out the animals from this organization, such as Fred the Mini Horse, make appearances about once per month. Those who work at the nonprofit also love their work. They say there is nothing better than putting a smile on the faces of children who need it most. Fred the Mini Horse is happy to provide this opportunity.

Fred the adorable Mini Horse makes his way around the floors in a great costume. He wears shoes over his hooves in an effort to protect the floors from harm. In addition, Fred the Mini Horse also wears a vest that clearly marks him as a therapy animal. Fred the Mini Horse is about 14 months old, which is about the same age as many of the children he sees at the hospital. Parents and children from all over the hospital echoed these sentiments, knowing that Fred provides an opportunity for kids to put their illnesses on the backburner for just a few minutes as they interact with the loving animals. Even the parents enjoyed meeting Fred the Mini Horse. The parents go through a difficult time in the hospital as well. The opportunity to leave the room and be interactive is a welcome break for many families.

In addition to the children’s hospital in Grand Rapids, Fred the Mini Horse also makes visits to other local children’s hospitals in the surrounding area. There are lots of children who are going through a hard time and could use a lift. This is the goal of Fred and the other animals at this local nonprofit. In the future, other animals might also visit the hospital as well. This isn’t just a welcome break for the children. The hospital staff often interact with the animals as well, looking for a quick break from their demanding jobs.

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