Friendly Furry Friends

No matter how little money and how few possessions you own, having a dog makes you rich.” -Louis Sabin

Take two Schnauzers and a Dachshund and call me in the morning. It’s not something we’re likely to hear a physician say, but isn’t it pretty much the equivalent of “take two aspirin and call me in the morning?” Don’t our pets give us that physical and mental relief much like the medication we sometimes take? Well, possibly, but you get the idea.

Dogs are considered man’s best friend, but there are so many benefits of owning a dog that extend beyond companionship. Dogs offer unwavering love and support, provide exercise for their families, and can even help children learn responsibility. For many people, their dog is their best friend and confidante. Yes, many people tell their pups their deepest, darkest secrets, wishes, and desires. Dogs also provide a sense of security and help ease the feelings of loneliness and isolation.

For older family members, the benefits of owning a dog are even more noticeable. Studies have shown that dogs can help improve cognitive function in seniors, and even help to stave off dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. For all these reasons, owning a dog can be an excellent way for seniors to improve their health and wellbeing.

Forrest General is home to five therapy dogs – Major Payne, Finn, Ruger, Cash Money, and Blaze. Each dog has his own employee name badge, complete with name, job title, and photo. Finn’s focus is the hospital’s Critical Care Unit and Stroke patients, while all other dogs rotate throughout the hospital’s general population areas. These four-legged friends also make their way through offices to provide employees an opportunity to experience the “feel good” moment of having a pet present. The pups have recently begun making their rounds at the Forrest General Cancer Center on a regular basis and are working on additional sites, as well.

There is definitely a change in the atmosphere throughout the hospital when one of our four-legged employees is on duty. There are smiles, giggles, and an overall sense of calm. It’s something everyone has become accustomed to and visits are highly anticipated.

For many, one’s dog is truly a part of their family, and they feel inclined to carry the dog whenever they go on an outing. Lucky for Pine Belt residents, there are a number of Hub City businesses – eateries, drinking holes, hotels, parks, and the like – that love your furry friends as much as you do, and welcome them with open arms (paws), water bowls, and an occasional treat. But also remember, your pet needs to be on a leash, monitored for good behavior, and you need to pick up after them.

When it comes to improving one’s physical health, dogs offer a wealth of benefits. For starters, spending time with a dog can help to reduce stress and anxiety and lower blood pressure, which leads to fewer incidents of heart disease and other health problems.

In addition to reducing stress, owning a dog can also lead to improved physical health. What better partner on your morning or evening run than a furry companion? Dogs require regular walks and exercise, which helps to keep the body fit and strong. You’re more motivated to get moving if your dog is begging to go out!

Having a dog can also increase one’s socialization. Walking your dog around your neighborhood or taking them to a park provides access to meeting new people. We’ve all seen the movie where the guy borrows a baby or a dog to help meet girls.

Health benefits associated with owning a pet include: higher survival rates, fewer heart attacks, less loneliness, better blood pressure and psychological well-being, lower rates of depression and stress levels, fewer doctor visits, increased self-esteem, better sleep, and more physical activity.

It sounds like a dog may be a good cure for what ails you. Southern Pines Animal Shelter (North 31st Avenue, Hattiesburg) and Hub City Humane Society (Jackson Road, Hattiesburg) both have tail-wagging, nose-sniffing dogs for adoption. Or maybe if you’re not ready to be a dog owner full-time, offer to foster a dog, sign up to take a dog on a walk on a regular basis, or donate items needed by the organizations.

Every dog has his day. Hopefully, you’ll make one part of yours. Remember, it’s for your health.