Pets For Health

Yu Shing Ting
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Friday - April 30, 2005
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If a dog was your teacher, you would learn stuff like:
-When loved ones come home, always run to greet them.
-When it’s in your best interest, practice obedience.
-Let others know when they’ve invaded your territory.
-Take naps.
-Stretch before rising.
-Run, romp and play daily.
-Avoid biting when a simple growl will do.
-On hot days, drink lots of water, and lie under a shady tree.
-When you’re happy, dance around, and wag your entire body.
-Delight in the simple joy of a long walk.
-Eat with gusto and enthusiasm. Stop when you have had enough.
-Be loyal. Never pretend to be something you’re not.
-When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by and nuzzle them gently.
-Anonymous (this message was sent to me via e-mail)

Studies have shown that pets offer many health benefits for us humans. And as a pet owner myself I can definitely attest to that.

One study by a professor at the University of Missouri, Columbia found that petting your dog increases blood levels of serotonin, a.k.a. the feel-good hormone, and may decrease depression.


Larry and Patricia Rodriguez with Scooter, Charlie and Dickens

The study, which was presented at the Fountains of Health conference in Barcelona last year, showed that petting dogs provide valuable psychological support and may be useful for decreasing stress and improving emotional well-being.

“Heart patients have a higher survival rate if they have a dog at home,” adds Richard Fujie, a veterinarian at the Kahala Pet Hospital.

And a study conducted at Northwestern Memorial Hospital found that when people got moving with their pets, both owners and dogs lost more weight and kept it off compared to people or pets that hit the road alone.

“One of the things we like about our dogs is they’re so energetic,” says Larry Rodriguez, a managing partner at Ernst & Young and father of three dogs adopted from the Hawaiian Humane Society (HHS). “They unfortunately don’t know what weekends are, so every morning they wake up at 4 and want to be walked, so that’s my exercise. And during the day my wife, Patricia, takes them at least twice.”

The Rodriguezes enjoy taking their dogs — fox terriers Dickens and Scooter and a miniature schnauzer, Charlie — on their daily strolls around the neighborhood. And from each half-hour walk, they’re burning up to about 80 calories.

For those without a dog or pet, reach out to family, friends, neighbors or stop by the Humane Society.

“I don’t need a treadmill, I have these guys,” laughs Larry. “They also have a calming effect on me. When I come home and things at work are kind of crazy, I sit down on my reclining chair and they’re just jumping on you and licking you. They couldn’t care less about what happened. All they care about is trying to make me feel comfortable.”

“They just have this unconditional love for you,” adds Patricia. “And having an animal is so social. I get to meet all my neighbors and pets. I know all the dogs’ names, but I don’t know all my neighbors’ names.”

In the mix of his busy schedule, Larry has taken on the responsibility of heading his company’s PetWalk team.

“We have about 20 to 30 people registered so far, and we’ll be out there with our pets,” says Larry. “The event is important because it recognizes the Hawaiian Humane Society for the good things it does. It recognizes people’s special relationships with pets, and just overall community awareness.”

On June 12, thousands of people — and dogs, cats, fish and other friendly creatures — will gather for a 2-mile walk around Magic Island and Ala Moana Park. Money raised will help lost, homeless and neglected animals that receive shelter and care at the humane society every year, as well as support other humane society programs for animals and people. You don’t need a pet to take part in the PetWalk, and there’s no entry fee or minimum donation required; participants are encouraged to raise pledges.

Although I have never adopted a pet from the HHS, I have used its services, from dropping off a lost dog to having my own dog found and picked up by the humane society.

Last year, more than 6,000 animals found happy homes through the HHS adoption program, and 54 percent of Oahu families have a pet in the house.

For more information on the PetWalk, call 946-2187, ext. 225.

Visit the Honolulu Star-Bulletin & MidWeek fundraising page at: www.justgiving.com/PFP/PetWalk2005

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