Tag: mental health
Whether its lowering our blood pressure, upping our oxytocin (that hormone that makes us feel warm and fuzzy), or keeping us sane (no small task), you can bet there’s a study underway at some university somewhere seeking to unravel — and dryly present to us — more hard evidence of yet another previously mysterious way that dogs enhance our well-being.
Given that, it’s a nice change of pace to plunge into a more anecdotal account — one that looks at the near magical mental health benefits one woman reaped through her dog, and does so with candor and humor, as opposed to sappiness.
“Dog Medicine: How My Dog Saved Me From Myself” is a book that shows, far better than any scientific study, just how valuable — no, make that priceless — the human-dog bond is.
The memoir spans a year in the life of the author, Julie Barton, starting when, just one year out of college and living in Manhattan, she had what we used to call a “nervous breakdown.”
A barely coherent phone call from her kitchen floor brought her mother racing to her side from Ohio to take her home.
Barton was diagnosed with major depression — one that didn’t seem to lift, despite the best efforts of family, doctors, therapists and the pharmaceutical industry. She spent entire days in bed, refusing to get up.
Around the same time doctors started her on Zoloft, Barton told her mother she’d like to get a dog. Her mother thought that was a great idea. A few weeks later, they were bringing home a golden retriever pup. Barton named him Bunker.
On that first night, Bunker started whimpering in his crate, and Barton crawled inside with him:
“It occurred to me as I gently stroked his side that this was the first time in recent memory that I was reassuring another living thing. And, miraculously, I knew in that moment that I was more than capable of caring for him. I felt enormously driven to create a space for Bunker that felt safe, free of all worry, fear and anxiety. For the first time in a long time, I felt as if I had a purpose.”
Barton’s depression didn’t lift overnight; it never does. But, as the artfully written story unravels, Bunker gives Barton the confidence she needs to start a new life on her own in Seattle.
The are plenty of bumps ahead, and more than a few tests, but, given we’re recommending you read it for yourself, we won’t divulge them here.
Or you can wait for the next scientific study that comes along, proclaiming — in heartless, soulless prose — to prove one way or another what we already know:
Dogs are good for the heart and soul.
Posted by John Woestendiek August 24th, 2015 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, benefits, bond, book, books, books on dogs, bunker, dog books, dog medicine, golden retriever, health, humans, julie barton, memoir, mental health, nurture, nurturin, pets, reading, rescue, science, studies, thinkpiece publishing
Before you wipe off that next dog kiss — not that too many ohmidog! readers are the sort that do that — you might want to think about this:
Some of those doggy bacteria that dog-disliking alarmists and hand-wringing medical types are always warning us about might actually be good for you.
As with Greek yogurt and kimchee, some of the microbes lurking in a dog’s gut could have a probiotic effect on the owners’ body, aiding in both digestion and overall health.
Researchers at the University of Arizona are now seeking volunteers to take part in a study to prove just that — and here’s the coolest part: Volunteers, if they want, can keep the shelter dog assigned to them when the study is done.
The “Dogs as Probiotics” study will focus specifically on the effect dogs have on the health of older people — in terms of physical well-being, mental well-being and cognitive functioning.
“We already know that dogs make us happier and in some ways healthier. The main point of this study is to try and understand whether or not there is an actual biological component behind this,” Kim Kelly, a UA doctoral student in medical anthropology, and one of the study’s primary investigators,
told the Arizona Daily Star.
“This has the potential to change the field in terms of how we understand, think about and use microbes to improve our health,” she said.
The study team is recruiting adults over the age of 50 and asking them to live with a dog from the Humane Society of Southern Arizona for three months.
Both the human and canine subjects will undergo tests of an non-invasive sort during the study to determine whether or not the positive microbes in the humans increase, and whether it correlates with improved immune measures in older adults.
Probiotics are often referred as “good” or “helpful” bacteria. They can help keep the intestines healthy, assist in digesting food, and are believed to help the immune system.
Kelly, along with researchers at the University of San Diego and the University of Colorado, will explore whether living with a dog encourages the growth of positive micro organisms in the human gut.
“We essentially want to find out, is a dog acting like yogurt in having a probiotic effect,” she said.
In addition, researchers will monitor participants for any changes in the mental health and emotional well-being.
Once the scientists are done, human participants will have the option of keeping the dog they kept in their home during the study.
We’re guessing that — whether their digestion has improved or not — most of them will.
Who wouldn’t want someone who has been kissing them for three months to hang around?
(Video: Attendees at the SPCA of Maryland’s March for the Animals, 2009, receiving some free probiotics from my dog Ace; photo: Kim Kelly and her cocker spaniel Katie, courtesy of Kim Kelly)
Posted by John Woestendiek March 24th, 2015 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: ace, animals, bacteria, benefits, cognition, digestion, digestive, dog, dogs, dogs as probiotics, germs, good bacteria, health, health benefits, humane society of southern arizona, kim kelly, kisses, kissing, licking, licks, mental health, microbes, pets, probiotics, study, university of arizona, volunteers
That’s my dad, featured for the month of September, in the 2014 Caring Canines Calendar.
Produced by the AMDA Foundation, the calendar features 12 outstanding therapy pets from across the country, pictured with those with whom they work and for whom they provide companionship.
The therapy pictured dog with my 89-year-old dad is Henry Higgins, who works where my father now resides, at Mission Palms Health and Rehabilitation in Mesa, Arizona.
I wrote last year about the bond they’ve developed there.
The 2014 Caring Canines Calendar (you can click the link to order) is the fifth one put out by the foundation, a nonprofit arm of the American Medical Directors Association. Proceeds from the calendar support foundation programs.
Each month features a pet (mostly dogs, but one bird makes an appearance) who is providing therapy or companionship at a long-term care facility.
As the calendar notes, “The presence of animals is becoming increasingly popular in long term care residential facilities, and for good reason — studies have documented that pets help reduce depression, loneliness, and anxiety; improve mental function; and lower blood pressure and heart rate.”
The calendar contains photographs and stories selected from the submissions contributed by residents and staff members of long term care facilities.
Henry belongs to Christina Higgins, a physical therapist at Mission Palms.
I first wrote a piece for ohmidog! after meeting them during a visit last year.
That old post is one of many that got gobbled up or lost in space when we recently changed servers for this website. (Data migration is as dangerous as it sounds, and can lead to broken links, also painful.)
But here’s a piece of it I found:
As my soon-to-be 89-year-old father continues on a long uphill road to recovery, there’s a dog helping him get there.
Somehow, that makes me – being, until last week, on the other side of the country – feel more comfortable. More important, I’m guessing it makes him — being a hard core dog lover — feel more that way, too, as well as more motivated, and more at home in a strange place.
My dad became ill last year, entering a hospital with stomach problems and suffering a heart attack while there that would lead to an induced coma of several weeks. Once he came out of it, he had to relearn things like eating and walking, and — having a lot more fight in him than most people — he made great progress during his stay in a skilled nursing facility in Mesa called Mission Palms.
He was fortunate enough to be assigned to a therapist named Christina, and her dog, Henry Higgins. Henry, now about a year and half, has been working at Mission Palms since he was three months old, and the first thing I noticed about him was how he made everyone’s face light up upon seeing him, both patients and staff, and definitely my father’s.
For starters, they played some fetch, which required my father hoisting himself out of his wheelchair and throwing a tennis ball. My father did the work, but I think the anticipation on Henry’s face — as he sat there looking at him, patiently waiting — provided the encouragement. After that, a putting green was hauled out and my father tried to sink some putts, as Henry looked on.
Henry is a pointer-setter mix, with long brown hair from his tail to the top of his head, but short hair on his muzzle. Christina, who chose him from a friend’s litter, said “he was the biggest, ugliest one, just a big huge fur ball.”
Out of all the pups, she said, he seemed the most sociable and interested in humans.
I know surgeons and doctors probably deserve most of the thanks, and are the main reason my father is still around. But as for right now, amid all other uncertainties … I’m probably most grateful that he’s in the capable hands of a caring therapist and an encouraging dog. Thanks, Henry.
Posted by John Woestendiek December 20th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: 2014, amda foundation, animals, bill woestendiek, blood pressure, calendar, caring canines, caring canines calendar, christina higgins, dogs, health benefits, henry, henry higgins, loneliness, long term care, mental health, mission palms, nursing homes, parents, pets, photography, senior citizens, therapist, therapy, therapy dogs
At the Yale University Law Library, you can check out ”Legal Alchemy: The Use and Misuse of Science in the Law.” You can check out “The Supreme Court A to Z: A Ready Reference Encyclopedia.”
Or, you can check out Monty, a terrier mix whose mission, in an experimental program started this month, is to de-stress, during final exam time, the litigators of tomorrow.
You’d think a genius farm like Yale University would have figured out sooner — as some smaller and lesser known colleges have — that dogs can, physically and emotionally, help students through troubled or stressful times.
But, for the school whose mascot is an English bulldog named Handsome Dan, it’s better late than never.
In the pilot program, students can check out Monty – a 21-pound “certified library therapy dog” who provides 30-minute sessions of what ABCNews describes as “unconditional, stress-busting puppy love.”
“The interest in available slots has been high,” said Jan Conroy, a spokeswoman for Yale Law School.
In a March 10 memo, law librarian Blair Kauffman said she hoped the free, three-day pilot pet therapy program would be “a positive addition to current services offered by the library … It is well documented that visits from therapy dogs have resulted in increased happiness, calmness and overall emotional well-being.” The memo directed students to the website of Therapy Dogs International for more information.
The school has yet to decide if the program will be ongoing. Likely, it being Yale Law School, there are liability concerns — the type that are known to paralyze bureaucracies and often limit the good dogs can do, based on mostly baseless fears.
Monty, for example, though he is said to be hypoallergenic, will hold his visits in a “designated non-public space” in the library to eliminate “potential adverse reactions from any library user who might have dog-related concerns.”
Concerns have also been expressed about the sign-up list for Monty being in a visible spot. That, the overly fearful fear, results in students having to expose their need for a mental health session — or at least some time with a dog — in public.
Monty — whose full name is General Montgomery – belongs to librarian Julian Aiken. And the pilot program got started after a Yale legal blog jokingly suggested making Monty available for checkout.
Therapy dogs have been introduced at Tufts University in Massachusetts, Oberlin College in Ohio and UC San Diego to help students get through the pressures of mid-terms and finals.
Posted by John Woestendiek March 25th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, dog, exams, experimental, final, general montgomery, julian aiken, law school, law students, lawyers, legal, liability, librarian, library, mental health, mid term, monty, oberlin, pets, pilot, program, relief, stress, students, therapy, therapy dogs, tufts, university, yale
A police dog handler in the UK has been found guilty of animal cruelty for leaving two German shepherds to die in the back of his car on one of the hottest days of last year.
Mark Johnson, of the Nottinghamshire police, was given a six-month conditional discharge and ordered to pay a fine. The judge called it “an extremely difficult case” which reflected poorly on the force’s attitude to officers with mental health problems.
Prosecutors said the animals – Jay-Jay and Jet – died in “excruciating pain” after Johnson forgot he had not taken them out of his vehicle on June 30. The dogs died – possibly within 20 minutes of being left in the car– from heatstroke, The Guardian reported
Johnson, 39, said he was severely depressed and was suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder when he left the dogs in the car. He said his illness had caused him to forget that the animals were still in the car as he sat down to do paperwork at Nottinghamshire police’s headquarters.
District judge Tim Devas described the dogs’ deaths as “sad and regrettable”, but criticized the police department for failing to help an officer struggling with depression.
“I feel a police officer has been let down … (T)his is a dreadful error of judgment brought about by an illness way before it happened and PC Johnson should have been given more help … I cannot believe that in the 21st century, depression and men crying is so abhorrent to an institution that nothing can be done about it,” he said.
An assistant chief constable of the Nottinghamshire police said dog handlers must now take their animals directly to kennels on arrival at work and that a system was being piloted alerting handlers to temperature changes inside vehicles.
Posted by John Woestendiek February 24th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animal cruelty, car, changes, deaths, depressed, dog, fine, fined, german shepherds, guilty, handler, heat, heat stroke, jay jay, jet, mark johnson, mental health, news, nottinghamshire, police, policies, policy, trial, vehicle
Scientists studying compulsive behaviors in Doberman pinschers have located a gene they believe is associated with OCD — a finding that could lead to pinpointing a genetic source of obsessive-compulsive disorder in humans.
In dogs, compulsive behavior includes tail chasing, licking their legs until they develop infections, and pacing and circling — canine versions, perhaps, of repeated hand washing and other behaviors displayed by the 2.2 million Americans estimated to be affected by the disorder.
The Doberman study was done by researchers at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, and the Broad Institute, according to the Boston Globe.
Scientists took samples from 92 Doberman pinschers that displayed compulsive behavior. Dogs with the disorder compulsively suck their flanks or blankets. Researchers also used samples from 68 normal dogs, and did a genome-wide scan, searching for spots that varied between the two samples.
They found a genetic hot spot in dogs with the compulsive behavior — within in a gene called Cadherin 2, known to be active in the brain and in a family of genes recently implicated in autism.
Dr. Dennis Murphy, a laboratory chief in the National Institute of Mental Health, said he is working to follow the research by studying the same gene in more than 300 human patients with OCD, 400 of their relatives, and about 600 people without OCD.
“Identifying a specific gene that could be a candidate gene for a complex disorder like OCD is a gift to have,’’ Murphy said. “This might be a quick route in to a meaningful gene that just could be involved in the human disorder, as well.’’
Posted by John Woestendiek January 5th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, broad institute, circling, compulsive, dennis murphy, disorder, doberman pinschers, dobermans, dogs, gene, genes, genome, licking, mental health, national institute of mental health, obsessive, ocd, pacing, pets, research, science, study, tail chasing, tufts university, university of massachusetts