Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Rant #773: Raining Cats and Dogs ... For Good Health

Did you know that having pets can actually help your newborn?

A new study by the journal Pediatrics finds that babies who lived with cats or dogs during their first year of life were less frequently ill than kids growing up where there were no pets in the home.

The study showed that sharing a home with a pet might actually build up the child's immune system, because sharing that space with another species bolsters helpful bacteria, yeast and other microscopic entities that reside in the youngster's body.

The effect was stronger with dogs in the house than with cats. Babies who lived with dogs were 31-percent more likely to be in good health than their counterparts who did not live with a dog. Cats improved the health of babies by 6 percent over those without cats in the home.

These are not what you would call incredible percentages, but the study is still interesting because it brings out the possibility that cats and dogs, even with their own body issues linked to cleanliness, might actually help babies due to that situation.

My son grew up with two dogs.

Mikey the mutt was our first dog, a holdover from my wife's home before we were married.

He was a very smart dog, very vindictive, and quite frankly, if we didn't take him in, I don't know where he would have ended up. He had a mean streak, and a lot of people didn't like him.

He could be very nasty in his own way, but he was great with our son.

We allowed him to live a little too long. He had a lot of things wrong with him, and we learned with Mikey that there comes a time when there isn't much you can do with a dog whose body was failing on him like it was.

We put him to sleep maybe six months to a year later than we should have, but we learned that lesson with him.

Max was our next dog. He was quite the opposite of Mikey. He was pleasant, very loyal to us, and he was basically a good mutt, a bit of of a mush but a really good pet to have around the house. I remember him as a puppy, and his playful, mushy disposition didn't change much as he got older.

He was great around our son. They basically grew up together, although they weren't really that close. They each had their own space, and each respected the other's space.

My wife really loved Max. It was like Max was a second child to her.

Me, I'm not really an animal person, but I grew to love him too.

He was my best buddy in the morning. I would take him out to do his thing, and then we would eat breakfast together. I would give him his Cheerios. He really loved to eat with me, and we both looked forward to it.

Then about a year and a half ago, he almost fell down our stairs, hurt is hind leg, and it didn't take long to see that no matter what we did for him, he wasn't going to get better.

He lost that "oomph" he had had for his first 13 years, and basically became a lump.

After awhile, he couldn't hold his bowels anymore, and he had trouble getting up and walking.

We made the decision, and last December, we put him to sleep. It was better for him, and better for us.

We don't have any babies in the house anymore. Our son is a teenager, more concerned with Facebook than with the possibility that we might have another pet in the house.

But next year, sometime next year, we will go to the local pound again, and pick out a dog for our home. We'll get another mutt, and I am sure he will be a great addition to our household.

And I am sure he will make us healthier, just by his presence.

I have learned that pets that you love, and who love you back, can be the best medicine there is for whatever ails you.

I guess this study kind of backs that up. Even little kids benefit from having a pet in the home.

And my wife and I know that we do, too.

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