Pets Strengthen Your Heart

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Filed Under: Heart Health
Last Reviewed 02/06/2014

As Valentine’s Day approaches, my wife Jan and I are finally able to talk about how heavy our hearts were this past Christmas season as we realized that it would soon be time to help our beloved 14-year-old dog to cross over. Those of you who have followed my newsletters may remember the March 1996 issue where I shared our joy about bringing a little Chow puppy “Chewie"  (aka Princess Chewbacca) home to join our family.

In the February 1996 issue, I advised readers that “heart attack survivors who come home to loving pets have a much lower mortality rate than those who live in environments without pets.” I also shared in subsequent newsletters how the decision to bring home a new puppy to join our older elkhound was not an easy one. But I heeded my own mantra that “following the heart—and not the head—is the best way to make the right decision.” I'll also admit that part of my surrender to bring home a “messy“ puppy who’d need a lot of time had something to do with the research I had cited in that article: 

There is “research demonstrating how simply petting a dog can have positive physiological responses, not only for the dog, but also for the person doing the petting. For more than two decades, scores of anecdotal reports and studies have shown the health benefits associated with pet ownership. One study showed a significant association between pet ownership and survival in patients hospitalized with coronary artery disease” and heart attacks.

“An estimated 2,000 companion animals now play a vital role in therapy programs throughout the U.S. Millions more enjoy a special bond with their human counterparts in homes across the country.”

In the past 14 years, that “puppy” has brought more joy to our home than any of us could have imagined. I am sure that all of you who have pets in your own lives appreciate how heavy our hearts were as we realized we were enjoying our last Christmas with Chewie, and counting the days until we might have to make the ultimate and painful decision to assist her passing. 

This Valentine’s Day, we will be aware of the important role that Chewie, and our elkhound Charlie, have played in our family, and all the lessons of unconditional love they gave us. So treasure your life with your pets—as we do the blessing of our now 10-year-old Chow, Kuma—and know that they are healing your heart and your health on so many levels!
 

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