Numerous studies have proven loving (and being loved by) our pets keeps us healthy. In addition to the wonderful companionship and assistance that service animals provide for their owners such as the blind or children with autism, pet ownership has been shown to lower one’s risk for heart ailments. Some studies have even shown dogs are able to detect health problems like seizures and diabetic attacks. With these facts in mind, the New York Times Well blog recently asked readers “How does your pet keep you healthy?”
My dog Lace has kept me healthy by being a great exercise buddy. When she was a puppy, Lace was the runt of her Golden Retriever litter. But by the time she was two, Lace had grown to a very portly 100 pounds – far exceeding the healthy weight for her breed. We took her to the veterinarian to make sure she was clear of all possible thyroid or other problems, and she was given a clean bill of health. The veterinarian told us that because we tended to feed Lace table scraps after dinner, she was gaining too much weight. We needed to keep her on a strict diet of diet dog food and exercise her much more regularly to ensure that her doggy obesity didn’t impact her health.
Around this time, I had decided to sign up for a club volleyball team. To get both of us back in shape, Lace and I decided to become jogging partners. We ran around my neighborhood each day, starting out slow and eventually working up to hour-long jogs down the hilly streets of our town. Lace was even more enthusiastic about our plan than I was! Even when I saw a hill ahead and started to slow down, she just kept pushing, encouraging me to run farther. I’m happy to report that both Lace and I have managed to stay in shape by continuing our daily runs, and that she’s now a healthy 75 pounds.