BLOG: BEING WELL

How to Live Longer through Man’s Best Friend

Jennifer Dennard @JennDennard
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May 10, 2017  | Last Updated: May 10, 2017

 

We found Pixie – a six week-old beagle-Chihuahua mix, just a week before the big snowstorm hit. My youngest, then two years old, spotter her in the carport of the vacant house across the street. Never one to let a petting opportunity pass her by, she dragged my husband to the pooch, which, did not skittishly run away. A sure sign it was in need of a home. It was love at first sight for my daughter, who was in the throes of a major Tinkerbell and Pixie Hollow phase. After realizing Pixie was just about the best behaved dog we could hope for, we took down the “Found Dog” signs and formally adopted the puppy, which has now been with us for nearly five years.

 

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My girls and I are experiencing the pleasures of pet ownership for the first time. (My husband grew up with dogs.) We’ve come to experience the benefits of owning man’s best friend – early-morning snuggles, late-night cuddles, and always-ready-to-go excuse to take a walk, to name a few. Pixie has also helped my daughters understand the responsibilities that come along with caring for another living creature. Eventually, Pixie will also help us to understand the stages of grieving for a beloved pet.

How to live longer with man’s best friend around

When it comes to lifespans, pets like Pixie can actually help to prolong ours. Studies by organizations like the American Heart Association and National Institutes of Health have found that pets can help their owners live longer, healthier (and tangentially happier) lives.

Dog-induced exercise can improve heart health and cholesterol levels, as well as lower blood pressure. Those same walks or runs can lead to more social interactions (I can’t tell you the number of times my daughters have stopped dog walkers with a request to pet their animals.), which in turns contributes to dog owners feeling less down in the dumps. Science has even proven it (as my daughters can attest): When people see dogs, their brains release natural antidepressants called endorphins.

Therapy dogs

Dogs can even be trained to take part in different types of therapy. My oldest is proud to escort her school’s therapy dog to the select students that can benefit from Dolly’s calming presence. I’ve heard of the same service being offered in nursing homes, too.

Little did I realize that, when we took man’s best friend in several years ago, she would offer our family benefits beyond snuggling. Needless to say, she makes the morning wake-up routine so much more fun for the girls, and so much more bearable for me. Man’s best friend truly does support our physical and emotional needs.

 

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