From the shelter to the heart

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) has designated October as National Adopt a Shelter Dog Month. More than three million dogs are currently in shelters across the United States and are in need of a good home. The month-long observance encourages people across the nation to raise awareness about the positive aspects of adopting a pet from a local shelter.

Regular readers of The Commercial know that our local animal shelter has weathered some stormy seas in recent years. Even so, there appears to be a new commitment to work with the local chapter of the Humane Society and area veterinarians. As always, there are a long line of dogs (and cats) that desperately need your help. In fact, their lives depend on it.

Before you commit to adoption you should remember a few key things. First, most dogs can easily live 12 to 15 years. Some live much longer. As such, you are making a pact to feed, house, groom, provide medical care (including vaccinations, heartworm preventative, flea and tick prevention…) and to provide a good environment with a lot of attention. In many ways, care of a dog is similar to care of a small child.

There are also several local ordinances that must be obeyed. If you live in the city limits, your dog must have a city license (available through any vet). The dog cannot be kept on a chain. Dogs must have a fenced space or be kept inside at all times. As to the common local practice of keeping a dog on chain — which is as we just stated, illegal — remember, you adopted a pet, not a prisoner. All pets should also be spayed or neutered. In short, the decision to bring a dog into your life and family is not a small one. They are not disposable commodities. They are conscious, live beings with scientifically confirmed abilities to think and feel.

With all the aforementioned hurdles and obligations, adopting a dog might seem a bit too much. Not surprisingly to many dog families, the presence of a dog has innumerable benefits.

Among the empirically demonstrated positive physical effects of dog companionship are: Increased longevity after heart attacks. Dog ownership increases the odds for survival in persons who have had a heart attack from 1 in 87 to 1 in 15; Decrease blood pressure and reduce stress. Studies of people undergoing stress tests or physical examinations have demonstrated that the presence of a dog lowered their heart rate and blood pressure during testing; Reduced medical appointments and minor health problems. The use of prescription drugs and the overall cost of caring for patients in nursing homes dropped in those facilities where companion animals became part of the therapy.

Dogs also can bring us improved emotional well-being. Studies have confirmed that people with dogs experience: lower feelings of anxiousness and increased feelings of safety; better overall moods; better adaptability to serious illness and death; a higher sense of being needed.

Then there are the benefits of dog companionship. People with dogs: have a greater sense of closeness and well-being; they have more to talk about with other people; they tend to interact with other people more.

Humans and dogs have cohabitated for over 15,000 years. Dogs, like their wolf cousins, are pack animals. They want to belong. They crave the order of the family. Properly trained and motivated, they will be protector, confidant and as the saying goes, “man’s best friend.”

During National Adopt a Shelter Dog Month, take a minute and think how your life and your family might be improved with the addition of a furry new member. It’s a decision you won’t regret.