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  • Affection Connections - The Animal - Human Bond

    There has been much written on the human-animal bond over the last several years. Finally pets are "getting their due" when it comes to relationships with humans in Nursing Homes, with the sick, old, and disabled, and with just plain home living with their owners...young and old...sick or disabled. Of course, their bond with law enforcement is well known also.

    Written and Provided exclusively to Workingdogs.com by Floyd R. Garrett, D.V.M. Copying is not allowed.

    Physicians of the future will be writing prescriptions for their sick patients..."Pet purchase or ownership." It has been shown that pets give stability, reduce stress, reduce our blood pressure, give us an emotional outlet, and help in socialization of many kinds. A strong bond with a pet can mean the difference in life or death.

    In 1995, a study showed that pets helped men and women that had a heart attack survive longer. Out of 87 patients that had a heart attack and irregular heartbeats only one of those who had a pet died. This group was compared with a group of 282 patients that had no pets and in the same length of time 19 died. It has been a well known fact now for many years that pet ownership lowers blood pressure. Why even the founder of modern nursing, Florence Nightingale, wrote that pets make excellent companions for the sick and chronically ill.

    The scientists at Baker Medical Research Institute in Australia published an article in 1991 that showed pet owners significantly have lower systolic blood pressure and lower plasma triglycerides than people without pets. A 1997 study at the University of Buffalo in New York showed that stress was much lower in pet owners. That when asked to give a talk or do any public speaking in front of an audience, the stress level was much lower if dogs were present in the room. It is a proven fact that in most cases overall, pet owners are more athletic and physically fit. They have lower blood cholesterol and fewer heart problems.

    Let's talk about our senior citizens living alone or in nursing homes. In one study (1995), 12 out of 15 patients felt that having a pet helped them cope with fear; gave them more security; and kept them from despair, loneliness, and isolation. There is one insurance company (and possibly many more) that has reduced health insurance premiums for elderly pet owners. Barbara De Angelis, PhD, in her book Are You the One for Me, 1994, stated that pet owners have happier more satisfied marriages. Overall their marriages have much closer relationships than non-pet owners do.

    Lets talk about children. In many studies it has been shown that children with pets learn social behavior easier, have more tolerance and sensitivity to society and people around them. Children with pets seem to have more
    positive feedback in society, they get social support from their pets and a sense of wellbeing. These children have higher levels of social competence and self-esteem.

    In closing, I simply must talk about one last group of pets. The working pet or assistance dog. Most of you know that dogs and other pets are assisting people with vision and hearing problems. They are doing such a tremendous job assisting people in wheel chairs and with major physical disabilities. They now have social assistance dogs that help burn victims, people with deformities and even severe obesity. These dogs are trained to help these people socially in society to interact with others and gain acceptance. A 1996 AMA study showed that service dogs helped their owners self esteem, social interaction, and relieved loneliness.
    The terms animal-assisted activities and animal-assisted therapy have been coined. You will see these terms more and more in articles you read. Animal-assisted activity can be simply keeping a bird in a depressed and lonely patients room. It has been shown by rehabilitation therapists that animals improve patients balance and coordination. Children trying to walk again will walk farther if a dog is in the room. Animals help children with emotional problems speak and interact faster than ones without animal assistance. I simply must close this article, I wanted to discuss Police working dogs since I have one, but maybe in one of the next articles.

    Written and Provided exclusively to Workingdogs.com by Floyd R. Garrett, D.V.M. Copying is not allowed.