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Are you loading up on Kleenex and cough drops and hand sanitizer? Did you get your flu shot? Is the pantry stocked with chicken noodle soup? Yes, it is cold and flu season now and, unfortunately, for the next four or five months ahead. Are you ready?

There are lots of pills and drops and creams and potions out there to supposedly cure any of your ailments, but for me…the best fix is a four-legged furry friend. And now medical science is saying that dog ownership can actually be a benefit to your life-long health.

Good medicine

A recent feature by Angus Chen on National Public Radio presented the idea that dogs and humans that interact with one another get a jolt of oxytocin, the so-called “cuddle hormone.” And, if you get to look at dogs and hug them every day, you just might live longer than people who don’t have to clean animal hair off their clothes.

Studies published in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, suggests that dog ownership is linked to a 21 per cent reduction in the risk of death – over the 12-year period studied – for people with heart disease. These findings support the long-held idea that dogs are an important component to good health.

The NPR interview continues to say that we know that owning a dog increases one’s physical activity. Regardless of the weather, dog owners have to get up off the couch and walk the dog. And dogs get you outdoors more often which can also improve cardiovascular health.

But it doesn’t take a complicated study or research to figure out that one of the biggest advantages of having a dog is what it does for your mental health.

Mutt medicine

For years now, studies have shown that owning or interacting with a dog reduces blood pressure and can even improve your cholesterol profile. More and more hospitals are implementing therapy dog programs that allow canine companions to visit patients who can hold a small dog in their lap or pet a large one that offers unconditional love as part of its bedside manner.

The NPR feature concludes that there is a rationale for why dogs improve our sense of well-being, reduce loneliness, improve self-esteem, and can be a boost to our physical and mental health.

And if you don’t currently have a dog, I can recommend a prescription for that. All you need to do is stop at the Beatrice Animal Shelter and meet the wonderful dogs waiting to be adopted. Max or Buddy or Joker may be just what the doctor ordered. Or maybe Cooper or Molly or Hildy can cure what ails you and change your life for the better.

There’s a good chance that your canine companion will help you lower your blood pressure, slow your heart rate, improve your breathing, and relax muscle tension. He will be a good listener when you need to unload your woes and frustrations, and you can be assured that he won’t argue with you over politics or current events. Surely this is just what the doctor ordered.

Barks and brews

If you are looking for a little break in your day on Sunday, Nov. 10, consider stopping in at Stone Hollow Brewery in downtown Beatrice between 2-4 p.m.

Volunteers with the Beatrice Humane Society will be present to answer questions and to introduce a few of the animals from the Beatrice Animal Shelter. Please join the Sunday afternoon bunch at the brewery for a fun, relaxing time.

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