Famed fictional dog "Lassie" of the popular TV show regularly came to the rescue of her human family members -- particularly Timmy -- whenever they got into trouble. However, there are plenty of real-world pooches who help people on a daily basis -- whether in the form of emotional comfort or delivery from life-threatening situations. Here are just a few ways in which our faithful four-legged friends are capable of coming to our aid.
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Mental Health Benefits
Just petting your dog can be therapeutic; it satisfies the need humans have to touch. Stroking a dog can have a calming effect on people and can lower a person's blood pressure. Dogs can also ease loneliness. Perhaps the most convincing example of the therapeutic benefits of petting and being with a dog can be seen with prison inmate puppy-raiser programs. Inmates who participate in puppy-raiser programs typically get dogs at 8 weeks old to socialize them. The dogs stay with the inmates for 12 to 18 months. Inmates learn unconditional love, patience, being responsible for a living being and how to work as a team.
You might not go outside to take a walk if you didn't have a pooch sitting by his leash and looking up at you. Most dogs need at least 30 minutes of exercise a day, which is likely about what you need, too. Getting outside and walking, jogging or playing with your dog fits with a healthy lifestyle. Exercise, besides helping keep you in shape, helps ease depression, stress and anxiety.
Dogs probably became domesticated because they helped humans in some way. Researchers speculate that dogs helped early man hunt and transport carcasses. Dogs still hunt with people, and other working dogs are used to herd livestock and as guard dogs. Police dogs help search for missing persons and narcotics. Some dogs help soldiers by detecting explosives.
Service and Therapy Dogs
Service dogs help people with disabilities. Guide dogs assist visually impaired people by helping them be more mobile. Dogs also help deaf people by alerting them when the doorbell rings or an alarm goes off. Other service dogs help people in wheelchairs by retrieving items, turning lights off and on, opening and closing doors, carrying items and helping a fallen person get up. Therapy dogs visit nursing homes, hospitals and other institutions to help with physical rehabilitation or for providing companionship.
By Laura Agadoni
Puppies Behind Bars: A New Leash on Life
HelpGuide.org: The Therapeutic Benefits of Pets
Alabama Cooperative Extension System: Dog Companionship and Its Benefits to Humans
The Atlantic: Humanity's Best Friend -- How Dogs May Have Helped Humans Beat the Neanderthals
About the Author
Laura Agadoni has been writing professionally since 1983. Her feature stories on area businesses, human interest and health and fitness appear in her local newspaper. She has also written and edited for a grassroots outreach effort and has been published in "Clean Eating" magazine and in "Dimensions" magazine, a CUNA Mutual publication. Agadoni has a Bachelor of Arts in communications from California State University-Fullerton.