Call it an “aha” moment for the AHA: The American Heart Association has finally, officially, recognized that dogs are good for the ticker.
Last week, the organization issued a statement saying enough evidence now exists to make that assertion, and it didn’t even recommend dogs be taken in moderation, or consulting your doctor first.
Heartening as the news release was, the statement was overdue, or at least a few beats behind the thinking of those of us who already knew, and didn’t need studies to tell us, that our dogs are good for the heart, by which I mean the organ and more.
Dog owners are more likely to get exercise. Stroking a dog lowers blood pressure. Stress is handled better by dog owners — even when their dog isn’t with them. Studies have proven all those things.
But the mysteries of what dogs do for the heart, and the soul, have only begun to be unraveled. And on top of all the benefits to humans that can be scientifically confirmed and quantified, there’s much more dogs do for us — much of it undetectable by microscopes and double-blind studies, and part of me hopes it always will be.
Being humans, we can sometimes get so wrapped in measuring something that it interferes with treasuring that something. We can get so intent on delving into something’s complexities that we fail to savor its simplicity.
Dogs, could they speak, would tell us that, and they’d likely advise to look for the simple answer first.
How important, heart-wise, is the simple fact that a dog can give us reason to live, and love? While I am not a medical professional, or even a medical amateur, I think a heart that’s engaged and occupied is more likely to keep running smoothly than one sitting empty in the garage, getting dusty.
“Perhaps when one owns a pet one tends to be happier,” said Dr. Glenn Levine of Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, who led the committee that wrote the statement. “Pet owners might be more likely to take their medications and eat healthier meals.”
Pharmaceuticals and spinach, important as they may be, don’t make you happy to be alive, though, and want to continue in that state.
The AHA isn’t saying everyone should go out and adopt a dog to lower their risk of heart disease. The statement emphasizes there’s much more involved in keeping your heart healthy, according to an NBC Today report.
“We did not want people to see this article and just go out and adopt or rescue or buy a dog …while they continue to just sit on the couch and smoke cigarettes,” said Levine, himself a dog owner.
In one study cited by the committee, researchers signed up 30 people with borderline high blood pressure who were about to adopt dogs from a shelter.
Then they persuaded half of them to wait — in the best interest of the study, if not the dogs.
Those allowed to adopt dogs right away had lower blood pressure two and five months later than those who had not adopted.
And once all the study participants had adopted dogs, systolic blood pressure was found to be lowered in the deferred-adoption group as well.
The study didn’t say whether those that adopted had lower blood pressure than those who bought dogs. Nevertheless, and even though I’m not a doctor, that’s what I’d prescribe.
Posted by jwoestendiek May 13th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: aha, aha moment, american heart association, animals, benefits, blood pressure, doctors, dogs, exercise, health, heart, medicine, official, pets, research, science, statement, stress, studies
After enrolling fewer than two dozen of a planned 230 dogs in the study — all paired with vets with PTSD — the VA has announced that the study has been suspended, and that, from now on, service dogs will only be paired with veterans with visible disabilities.
The new policy goes into effect today.
For the 400,000 veterans diagnosed as having post-traumatic stress disorder, that means dogs — despite all the positive effects that have been reported — will no longer be part of their treatment and recovery.
Among those blasting the decision is the American Humane Association.
Just days before its second annual celebration of hero dogs, the organization took time to put together a petition, calling on the Department of Veterans Affairs to reverse the new policy.
“Our focus on animal-assisted therapy dates back to 1945 when we promoted therapy dogs as a means to help World War II veterans recover from the effects of war,” the AHA said. ”We know from years of experience that the human-animal bond is a source of powerful healing, whether they are children suffering from cancer or military men and women who have suffered the stress of battle.
“Service dogs, in particular, are an amazing, positive resource for assisting our nation’s best and bravest though their physical pain and mental anguish. We call on the VA and the United States Congress to stand up for our veterans…”
Specifically, the new VA policy ends the program that reimbursed veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder for their use of service dogs while in recovery.
“It’s of the utmost importance that we provide our vets with every option available to treat service related ailments,” said Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), who was also shocked to learn of the new policy.
“Especially as the wars are winding down, and more and more soldiers are returning home with mental trauma, the VA must continue to allow their doctors and mental health professionals to provide benefits to veterans who need mental health service dogs,” he said.
Congress mandated that additional scientific study be conducted on the impact of service dogs paired with PTSD vets several years ago. But apparently that study never got off the ground — at least not as ambitiously as planned.
Launched in June 2011, the study planned to follow 230 PTSD vets and their service dogs, tracking them and their families through 2014. Only about a tenth of that number were registered for the study, though.
The study was halted, according to reports, because of concerns about dogs biting children, dirty and cramped living conditions, and faulty record-keeping.
According to the VA, there are about 400,000 veterans currently in treatment for PTSD, and that group has higher than normal rates of divorce, substance abuse, unemployment and suicide. There are 32 to 39 suicide attempts daily among vets with PTSD, about half of which result in death, according to a column by the Chicago Tribune’s Steve Dale.
Dale’s column looks at the benefits of programs such as those provided by Paws for Purple Hearts – an improved quality of life, fewer flashbacks and nightmares. Vets paired with dogs are said to be more likely to find jobs; less likely to become recluses.
“One hallmark of PTSD is avoidance (of going outdoors and socializing with others),” says Robert Porter, executive director 0f Paws for Purple Hearts. “That’s hard to do with a 60-pound dog who just wants to go out and play.”
The study was a chance to prove, beyond the anecdotal, just how much therapy dogs could help vets with PTSD. But, for reasons that make little sense, both the study and the concept were canned.
Most of the dogs in the study were from Guardian Angel Medical Services of Williston, Fla., and its founder and director, Carol Borden, says there were no biting incidents reported.
Borden says that in the organization’s history, veterans with PTSD nearly always benefit from having a dog. Some patients have been able to cut their medication in half, or stop taking it altogether, she said.
That has raised questions among some about whether pharmaceutical companies lobbied for the new VA policy. That’s conjecture, of course — conjecture being something that tends to occur when no logical explanation is given.
The VA owes vets, not to mention Congress, an explanation.
And we all owe veterans afflicted with PSTD a chance to get past it, or at least cope with it. Ruling out dogs and dropping the study is an oath broken, a promising avenue bypassed, and a slap in the face to veterans.
“We’ve not experienced a single suicide attempt as far as we know,” Borden said of vets paired with dogs under the Guardian Angels program. “I have letters from wives thanking us because the husband has returned, and it all happens because of a dog who provides unconditional love.”
Posted by jwoestendiek October 5th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: aha, american humane association, animals, benefits, ceased, charles schumer, congress, department, disabilities, divorce, dog, dogs, dropped, drug abuse, employment, funding, guardian angel medical services, halted, paws for purple hearts, petition, pets, post traumatic stress disorder, programs, promised, ptsd, ptsd dogs, reimburse, reimbursement, senator, service, study, suicide, terminated, therapy, va, vet, veterans, veterans affairs
Leave it to us humans to introduce dogs to the joys of working hard and getting nowhere.
The American Pet Products Association (APPA) reports that about 3 million dogs across the country were using treadmills in 2010.
Given widespread obesity in the species (I think we taught them that, too), it’s not an entirely bad thing for dogs to be getting workouts on treadmills.
But there is a monotony to it that strikes me as running counter to what dogs are all about. Show me the dog that prefers a treadmill to running outdoors — in nature, free to veer this way and that, to stop and sniff when the spirit moves him — and I’ll show you a dog that, quite possibly, has become too human.
On the other hand, if the treadmill is the only exercise a dog is going to get, I guess we’ll just have to accept that the times are changing.
According to the Associated Press, the latest APPA survey of pet owners marked the first time the treadmill question was included, based on reports that doggie treadmills were selling briskly. The survey found 3 million dogs made use of them, which is about one of every 25 dogs in the country.
The reasons for resorting to a treadmill are many, and often valid – when it’s too hot out, too cold out; when a pet’s human has become temporarily, or permanently, immobile; when an injured dog needs a controlled form of exercise.
While the AP article explored only the upside of dog treadmills, it strikes me that — like most technology — they carry a high probability of being misused.
Putting your dog on the treadmill could become the equivalent of putting your child in front of the TV set — a way to keep them occupied and quiet. All us folks who seem to think we’re too busy for a walk in the park could come to over rely on them.
The argument could be made, and maybe will: If you don’t have the time and energy to walk a dog, don’t get one — at least not one that requires a lot of exercise.
The AP article mentions one woman in Las Vegas whose rescued dog had dropped from 115 pounds to 80 using a treadmill. That impressed her so much that she bought her own dog treadmill, which is now used by all four of her dogs — too many, she said, to walk at one time.
“I want to make sure the rest of their lives are the healthiest we can make them. If the treadmill promotes a longer life, then it’s easy to do it each day … Whatever we can do now to help them lead a healthier, better life is worth it,” she said.
All that’s true, as long as its not the only activity the dog is getting. Frolicking in the grass and socializing with other dogs also makes for a healthier dog. So while I don’t want a doggie treadmill in my home, or, worse yet, a human one, it’s clear they do have their place.
Dog trainer April Suhr of Las Vegas believes shelters across the country could make good use of them. Getting out of their kennels and onto a treadmill a few times a week could keep shelter dogs from going “cage crazy” and make them healthier, happier and more adoptable, she says.
Suhr has a treadmill at home for her three pets and her foster dogs. Giving them the same amount of exercise by walking and running with them would take several hour and many miles, she noted.
Doggie treadmills, which are built smaller than human ones, come in a range of sizes and prices, starting at nearly $500.
DogPacer, maker of one of the newest and least expensive on the market at $499, has plans to start producing a less costly treadmill for toy dogs in September. Pennsylvania-based GoPet sells canine treadmills and a treadwheel, ranging from $475 to $1,225.
Interestingly, dogs being forced to run on treadmills was one of the first causes taken up when America’s animal welfare movement was finding its footing.
Until the late 1800s — and here’s where we get to the ugly part – dogs were bred and put to work at many a restaurant and inn as turnspit dogs. They were placed in wooden wheels, similar to that you’d see in a hamster’s cage, and encouraged to walk. The wheel powered a chain drive that rotated a spit above a fireplace, ensuring that the meat on the spit cooked evenly.
The short-legged dogs, bred small enough to fit in the wheel, would often be leashed in a way that made them choke if they stopped. Often, a hot coal would be tossed into the wheel to speed a dog up.
When Henry Bergh established the ASPCA in the 1860s, one of his first campaigns was to end the practice.
That a device similar to one once used to enslave and abuse dogs is now being sold — for $1,000 and more — to pamper them and keep them healthy is ironic to say the least. Though it’s with kinder, gentler intentions, we seem in a way to be, after 150 years of stepping forward, back in the same place.
I think that says something; I’m just not sure what.
(Photo: A Belgian Malinois works out on a treadmill at LA Dog Works in Los Angeles; by Grant Hindsley / Associated Press)
Posted by jwoestendiek August 21st, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: american pet products association, animal welfare, animals, appa, benefits, concerns, dog, dog treadmills, dogs, equiipment, exercise, health, humans, increasing, pet products, pets, products, running, sales, survey, treadmills, turnspit dogs, use, walking
This may be a hard pill to swallow for all those worrywarts warning us about zoonotic diseases, but having a dog living inside the home apparently makes for a healthier infant.
A new study reported in the medical journal Pediatrics says infants living in households with dogs were healthier and had fewer ear infections than those without a dog.
The study, based on 397 children who lived in rural and suburban parts of Finland, found that contact with dogs and, to a lesser extent, cats, helped ward off respiratory tract infections during a baby’s first year.
Seems all that dirt and bacteria dogs bring inside might actually help build up the immune systems of babies.
“The children having dogs at home were healthier, they had less ear infections and they needed less antibiotics,” said Eija Bergroth, the study’s lead author and a pediatrician affiliated with Kuopio University Hospital in Kuopio, Finland.
Under one measure, children with dogs were reported as being healthy for about 73% of the time, compared with about 65% of children with no dog contact at home, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.
Bergroth said that children who lived in households where dogs spent 18 or more hours a day outside showed the most healthy days, fewer fevers and the least use of antibiotics compared with babies with no dog at home.
One theory, she said, is that indoor-outdoor dogs bring more dirt and bacteria inside the home, allowing infants to build up immunities.
Bergroth’s study involved children who were born at Kuopio University Hospital in Finland between September 2002 and May 2005. The children’s parents were given weekly questionnaires from the time their babies were nine weeks old until they were 1 year old.
It’s not the first study to document the physical health benefits of shacking up with dogs. A study funded by the National Institutes of Health showed children exposed to two or more dogs or cats in their first year had lower chances of developing allergies of all kinds than children exposed to one or no pets.
Posted by jwoestendiek July 10th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: allergies, antibiotics, bacteria, benefits, dogs, ear infections, Eija Bergroth, exposure, fevers, finland, health, health benefits, households, immune system, infants, infections, Kuopio University Hospital, pediatrics, pets, respiratory, study, zoonoses, zoonotic
A couple of Psychology Today bloggers are arguing over whether dogs can indeed soothe the savage breast — or at least help keep the heart that’s ticking inside of it from imploding.
We’re not a scientist — we’re not even a we – but it’s our firm belief that dogs lower blood pressure, unlike blogs, which raise it.
So, in our view, Alex Korb and Hal Herzog, the dueling bloggers, would both be better off, healthwise, to quit looking up and reciting old studies and spend that time bonding with dogs.
Korb, a postdoctoral researcher at UCLA and a scientific consultant for BrainSonix, says scientific studies have clearly shown dogs are good for the human heart — not just in mushy romantic terms, but the actual pump itself, and all the conduits leading to and from it.
Herzog, a professor of psychology at Western Carolina University and author of “Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat: Why It’s So Hard To Think Straight About Animals,” says no they haven’t — at least not with any consistency.
Scientific studies, we will point out here, are like courtroom experts — you can usually find one that supports your cause (and, if not, you can always fund one).
We think studies have produced piles of evidence on the health benefits of dogs; we think further that — while such studies are important — they don’t tell us dog owners anything we don’t already know.
Studies have looked at how simply petting a dog can lower blood pressure, and how it can also lead to increased production of oxytocin, sometimes called the “love hormone.”
But I think it goes far beyond petting. Playing with a dog, observing a dog at play, even watching a dog peacefully snoozing, all do the same, I’d bet. And I’d suspect eye contact is even a bigger factor. When Ace looks into my eyes, I can sense my blood pressure dropping. I can almost feel the oxytocin gurgling through my .. whatever it is oxytocin gurgles through.
On his Psychology Today blog, “Pre-frontal Nudity” Korb cites several studies showing dogs reduce the likelihood of death by a second heart attack, lower blood pressure and prompt us to produce oxytocin.
Korb points out that rats produce oxytocin when they are licked by their mothers, and that rats that are licked a lot grow up to be more well adjusted rats — or at least less anxious and stressed.
“Oxytocin works similarly in humans, and while it may be particularly necessary in childhood, even during adulthood it is important. Oxytocin is released by physical touch (hugs, kisses, handshakes, massages, breast-feeding … that sort of thing), and possibly even through social interaction.
“Humans are social animals. So I guess it’s not that surprising that having support from other humans, and other animals, has positive health benefits. Hopefully you also take away from this article the fact that there is not always a clear divide between physical health and mental health.”
I’d add to that maybe there’s not such a clear divide, either, between the mushy romantic heart and the actual pump mechanism — that maybe what keeps the metaphoric one happy and content, also keeps the real one pumping.
“So if you have a heart attack, reach for your poodle,” Korb concludes. “Well, reach for the phone first (or your LifeAlert), then maybe reach for the aspirin, then reach for the poodle.”
Herzog doesn’t see it that way. ”It’s a nice tight package – just the sort of science writing that makes for a good Psychology Today blog post,” he writes in ”Animals and Us,” his blog for Psychology Today. ”The only problem is that the story is a little too good to be true.”
Herzog goes on to cite studies that found conflicting, and sometimes opposite results, and concludes that the evidence is not conclusive.
“The $50 billion dollar pet products industry wants you to believe that playing with a dog or cat will ward off depression, cure autism, and cause you to lose weight. Unfortunately, the evidence for these claims is not nearly as strong as “the pet industrial complex” would have you believe.
As for oxytocin, he adds, while a South African study showed impressive increases in oxytocin of subjects who had engaged in petting sessions (with dogs), other neurochemicals also spiked during tests of the subjects.
“Who is to say oxytocin was the critical hormone, rather than, say, dopamine or endorphin – neurotransmitters which are also associated with pleasure and reward?
“… The fact is that many studies of the positive effects of pets on people do not pass the replication test. Further, pop science writers (of which I am one) are often guilty of only covering the good stuff when it comes to the animals in our lives.
“So you might want to dig a little deeper the next time you read that playing with a poodle will unclog your arteries and heal a broken heart.”
Posted by jwoestendiek May 22nd, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: alex korb, animals, animals and us, benefits, blog, bloggers, blogging, blood pressure, debate, dogs, hal herzog, health, heart, licking, love hormone, oxytocin, pets, pre-frontal nudity, psychology today, rats, science, scientific, studies, study
Sometimes breaking the rules leads to better rules.
The Rose Brooks Center for women took in a domestic violence victim and her dog, departing from their standard no-dogs policy after hearing the details of her case — her Great Dane had saved her when she was attacked by a hammer-wielding boyfriend.
According to KCTV 5, the dog covered her with his body, absorbing most of the blows until the boyfriend threw them both out of a second story window.
Despite their injuries, the woman was able to escape with her dog, who sustained several broken bones. She eventually got in touch with the center, located in the Kansas City area.
The center offered her a bed, but when they told her pets weren’t allowed, she balked. The shelter decided, for the first time in its history, to overlook their regulations and allow the dog to stay.
That decision would go on to lead to a change in policy at the shelter.
About 40 percent of battered women with pets stay in abusive relationships to protect or remain with their pets, said the center’s chief executive officer, Susan Miller.
“They provide so much comfort, and to have to leave that pet behind is so heartbreaking,” Miller said. “It has become abundantly clear that the incredible therapeutic benefits that pets can have on a family greatly outweigh the cost and inconvenience of housing them.”
The center is spending $140,000 to add seven kennels, a walking trail and a pet-friendly play area.
Miller, who made the decision to break the rules, credits the abused woman — who isn’t being identified — with bringing about the change.
“She was not going to leave her pet alone with him,” she said. “He saved her life.”
Shelter officials say they’ve seen a 300 percent increase in applications since becoming pet-friendly.
Posted by jwoestendiek January 16th, 2012 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: abused, abusive, animals, attack, battered, benefits, boyfriend, dog friendly, dogs, domestic violence, great dane, hammer, kansas city, kennels, no pets, pet friendly, pets, policy, relationships, rose brooks center, rules, saved, shelter, susan miller, therapeutic, therapy, trails, women
Milo is a boy. Chad is a dog. Together, they are an anecdote — one used to start off this New York Times story, but more importantly one that shows the tremendous, and not fully understood, therapeutic power of dogs.
As the Times recounts it, Chad, a yellow Labrador retriever, moved in with Milo and his family in Manhattan last spring. The hope was, as an autism service dog, he would protect Milo, who sometimes has tantrums or tries to run away while outside.
He did that and more, and the effects were nearly immediate.
“Within, I would say, a week, I noticed enormous changes,” Milo’s mother said of her son. “More and more changes have happened over the months as their bond has grown. He’s much calmer. He can concentrate for much longer periods of time. It’s almost like a cloud has lifted.”
Doctors noticed it as well. “He started to give me narratives in a way he never did,” one said of Milo, adding that Milo mostly talked about the dog. The changes have been so profound that doctors are considering weaning Milo from some of his medication.
While anecdotal evidence has long been piling up on how dogs benefit human health, research has been limited.
Now, the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, part of the National Institutes of Health, wants to take a closer look, the Times reports.
In partnership with the Waltham Center for Pet Nutrition in England (part of the Mars candy and pet food company), the child health institute is seeking proposals for research projects that “focus on the interaction between humans and animals.”
It is looking to fund studies on how dog-human interactions affect typical development and health, and whether they have therapeutic and public-health benefits.
When Mars became aware of the institutes’ interest, a public-private partnership was established, with the company committing more than $2 million. The National Institute of Nursing is also providing money.
(Photo: CBS News)
Posted by jwoestendiek July 8th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, autism, autistic, benefits, chad, dog, dog-human, dogs, eunice kennedy shriver institute of child health and human development, grants, health, humans, milo, national institutes of health, pets, proposals, relationship, research, service, service dogs, study, therapy dogs, waltham center for pet nutritiion, yellow lab
Some of you might remember Darcy — the too cute to strangle Boston terrier for whom I’ve served as babysitter while her mom and dad were away.
Twice, I took Darcy into my home for multi-day stays, where she proceeded to test my patience half the time, and be adorable the other half.
That was back when I had a house. Now, upon my return to Baltimore — having given up my home for the purposes of our continuing road trip – the tables have turned, and Darcy and her humans have most graciously taken Ace and me into their’s.
Where, as you might guess, I proceeded to test their patience half the time (going so far as to clog up their toilet yesterday morning … the house guest’s worst nightmare), and attempted to be adorable (once I had my coffee) the other half.
And all this just before the start of school, no less.
Here in the city of Baltimore, yesterday was the first day of school — so, with both Darcy’s mom and dad being city schoolteachers, it’s all the more impressive that, with everything else that was on their minds and agendas, they agreed to house one road-weary man and his 130-pound dog over the weekend.
There, in addition to the hazards of using too much toilet paper, this is what I learned:
Teachers — or at least teachers like Dan and Marite – should be appreciated much more. I say this not because they gave us shelter, but because in the days I spent with them I’ve seen how much of themselves, their own time, their own money, their hearts and souls, they pour into what they do.
Yesterday, as Ace and I sat drinking coffee on their front stoop after they left, I watched as children headed down the sidewalk for the start of a new school year, many of them tightly holding the hands of their parents. And I thought how fortunate they were — even in a school system as troubled as Baltimore’s — to have teachers like Dan and Marite. And how much worse things would be if they didn’t.
Dan spent the bulk of the weekend on his computer, finalizing his lesson plans, sweating the details. Marite cooked up some do-it-yourself orange Play-doh out of flour, water and food coloring. When we walked with the dogs down to the shopping center for lunch, Dan and Marite hit the Goodwill store, and came out with a full bag of classroom supplies.
But Dan and Marite take chaos in stride. They seem to have mastered patience, which I guess all teachers must. They are so easy going that she probably won’t mind that I — lacking the technical know-how — am writing her name without the accent thing over the “e”.
While their home has plenty of clutter — I would describe their decorating scheme as contemporary-tornado — Ace and I only added to it, what with our leashes and dog bowls and dog food and camera and laptop and dirty laundry. We just wedged ourselves and our stuff in, and felt right at home. (Virgo that I am, I will admit I feared putting anything on a counter for fear it would disappear immediately under a stack of paperwork, laptops and school supplies. By the way, have you seen my glasses?)
The clutter, though – I’d say it’s 85 percent school related — is just another sign of their commitment.
Most people seem to truly cherish their work — though not always their jobs. And there’s a difference. One’s “work” is doing what they got into a career to do, whether it’s teaching kids, righting wrongs or driving trucks, whether it’s lawyering or newspapering. One’s “job” is what that work has evolved into — thanks to managers, supervisors, corporate chiefs and stockholders.
We the workers, in a way, are their Play-Doh, and they tend to mold, bend and stretch us, sometimes to the point of snapping.
They take your one job and squeeze two more jobs into it; then shovel layers of bureaucracy on top, burying you under piles of seemingly meaningless paperwork, and doing away with anything that might serve as support. They tell us to do more with less, and, at times, seem to be doing everything in their power to prohibit us from doing our jobs right. Then they — those at the very top — reap the benefits of the more, while we scrape by on the less.
I don’t think that makes me a Communist, just a pissed off worker — or a pissed off former worker, to be precise. (I kind of like the boss I have now, who looks a lot like me.)
As a nation, we fail to show enough appreciation for those doing the heavy lifting. And yet the heavy lifters keep lifting — they, and teachers especially, manage to stay fired up about the work, if not the job, despite shrinking benefits, paltry salaries and all the forces that seem intent on extinguishing that fire.
So, a little early for Labor Day, I salute the American worker, who, like the American dog, keeps at it — leaping obstacles, heeding commands, summoning up energy even when exhausted, snapping at and shaking off all the annoying little bugs that come down from above, buzzing in our ears and getting on our backs.
(“Dog’s Country” is the continuing account of one man and one dog spending six months criss-crossing America.)
Posted by jwoestendiek August 31st, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace does america, america, american, animals, benefits, career, darcy, dog's country, dogscountry, employees, employers, job, labor, labor day, ohmidog!, overburdened, overworked, pets, road trip, salary, school, support, teachers, work, workers
At least that’s my thinking — and it’s the view of the Humane Society of the United States, as well.
HSUS is encouraging dogs in the workplace programs, and this year it has teamed up with Petplan, which describes itself as America’s top-rated pet insurance provider, to ask busineses to consider adopting programs permitting employees to bring dogs to work.
Such policies, they say, can be beneficial to employees, dogs and the company bottom line. Studies have shown that employees who bring their dogs to work tend to be more efficient, happier and healthier.
“We share everything with our four-legged family members – our joys, our sorrows, sometimes even our lunch,” says Natasha Ashton, co-founder of Petplan. “It seems only natural that we also share our work lives with our pets.”
To assist employers in implementing a dogs at work program, Humane Society Press, the publishing division of HSUS, published “Dogs at Work: A Practical Guide to Creating Dog-Friendly Workplaces,” a guide to creating a business environment where employees’ dogs are welcome.
Authors Liz Palika and Jennifer Fearing present the tangible benefits of dog-friendly policies and provide step-by-step advice on obtaining management buy-in, setting fair procedures and protocols and dealing with any concerns about dog-friendly policies in the workplace. Dogs at Work also includes detailed advice about how to prepare dogs for the office environment, provides sample policies and handouts and provides two comprehensive case studies describing successful dog-friendly workplaces.
“Our canine companions make excellent colleagues, even at big companies,” said Fearing, chief economist for The Humane Society of the United States. “In the midst of tough times, employers can improve morale and support the human-animal bond by relying on Dogs at Work to develop and implement a workable – and free – program that works for everyone.”
The HSUS implemented a dogs at work program in 2007, and about 50 dogs come to work at the organization’s three offices in the Washington, D.C. area.
(Photo: Soco, HSUS staffer Cary Smith’s dog, at work; by Cary Smith, courtesy of HSUS)
Posted by jwoestendiek June 25th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, benefits, dog, dog friendly, dog friendly workplace, dogs at work, employees, employers, guide, hsus, humane society of the united states, insurance, natasha ashton, news, ohmidog!, petplan, pets, policies, take your dog to work day, work, workplace
It occurs to me – tooling down the highway tends to make things occur to me – that in my current journey, with my dog, across America, mooching off friends and family and, given the opportunity, complete strangers, I am, in ways, taking on the role of dog.
(When things occur to me, there are usually a lot of commas involved.)
Since Ace and I pulled out of Baltimore, two weeks ago, we’ve only spent two nights in motels – thanks to my mother putting me up two nights, and my ex-wife and her husband putting up with me for ten days, a most gracious gesture and an arrangement that barely felt weird at all.
More important, it allowed me to spend some time with my son in his last summer before college, get to know his family dogs, suck in plenty of air conditioning and take part in recreation real and virtual.
We played some Frisbee golf (Wii and real), tennis (real), ping pong (Wii), regular golf (real), made side trips to Memphis, Tupelo and Oxford, and over the weekend gave the dogs baths.
Ace has gotten along famously with both Molly, a two-year-old beagle mix, and Huey, a scruffy little terrier who’s 15, and, on walks, squirts his pee straight sideways, to amazing distances. One must always remember to walk behind Huey.
Ace immediately became part of the pack and adapted to our temporary quarters, but then that’s what dogs are best at, adjusting. I’m not entirely sure he wants to leave. Nevertheless, the time has come to move on.
We’re thinking south, towards New Orleans, but we’re not sure.
In the days ahead we’ll probably be spending more nights in motels, and, once we get to cooler climes, camping – but we still plan to mooch when the offer is made, avoiding motels whenever possible.
(Two good things about friends: They don’t impose weight limits, or require non-refundable security deposits. At least none have yet.)
I’ve gotten a few lodging offers, even a couple from strangers. More often, they are from friends and family – some from people who want to see me so badly, they will tolerate my dog, more yet from people who want to see my dog so badly, they will tolerate me.
Traveling with dogs, though it can be restrictive and inconvenient, can also open doors. My ex and her husband, I’d guess, after 10 days of me sleeping in their den, won’t be too sad to see me go, but they’ll miss Ace. Although she informed me upon arrival that Ace is overweight (correctly, I realized), she then went on to treat him to, among other things, pancakes, bacon, cheesecake, hamburgers and hot dogs.
I’m learning a thing or two from my dog about the fine art of freeloading — not surprising, given dogs are probably society’s ultimate freeloaders.
We feed them, shelter them, teach them, groom them, entertain them and sometimes go to far more ridiculous extremes. They get, pretty much, a free ride.
Unlike your average parasite, though, they give far more back in return — unwavering loyalty, unconditional love, companionship, affection, better health, smiles, laughs, serenity, comfort, exercise and, oh yeah, that sense of purpose and fulfillment that they add to our lives.
Since I’ve hit the road, I’ve been offered shelter, fed meals and found companionship (family variety) – everything a dog gets, except maybe a scratch behind the ears. I, in turn, try to be amusing, refrain from barking, not drool when dinner is served and avoid shedding on the couch.
In reality, I don’t uphold my side of the freeloading bargain as well as dogs do. I’m not quite as loyal and steadfast, as dependable or entertaining, as cute, soothing or stimulating. But I try.
Not wholeheartedly, like a dog – I won’t be licking any hands, for instance — but I try.
Posted by jwoestendiek June 8th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, ace does america, alabama, america, animals, benefits, dog friendly, dogs, dogscountry, ex wife, family, freeloader, freeloading, friends, god's country, house guest, huey, humans, journey, loyalty, memphis, mississippi, molly, mooch, oxford, pets, relationships, road trip, traveling, tupelo, u.s.a.