DEAR OLD TRAINER: My husband and I saw a story that said people who own dogs live longer. At first, we thought it had to be a joke, but we have had dogs all our lives and we are 79 and 75 and both healthy. Do you know if this story is true?
Sue Ann, Denver, Colo.
A: It’s true. A team of scientists in Sweden spent a lot of money following 3.4 million people over a 12-year period so they could tell us what all dog owners already know—humans who have been adopted by a dog are more healthy and happy than those who have not.
The study found that adults who lived alone and owned a dog were 33 percent less likely to die during the study than adults who lived alone without dogs.
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In addition, single adults with dogs were 36 percent less likely to die from cardiovascular disease. Adults living with other family members or partners and owning a dog also lived longer.
That’s astounding from a medical standpoint and the study could not explain why it occurs, but any dog owner can explain it:
You get an endless supply of unconditional love, the rarest thing on earth.
If you feel bad, your dog won’t rest until she cheers you up.
No matter what mistake you make your dog will never criticize you. Instead, he will tell you how great you are.
You exercise more because your dog is an expert at making you feel guilty if you don’t. You are never lonely and you never come home to an empty house. Instead you come home to a dog telling you how wonderful it is to see you.
A dog is always ready to go for a drive and always thinks your driving is flawless.
No matter what idea you have, your dog tells you it is the greatest idea he ever heard.
I could list another few thousand reasons, but the bottom line is this — if you want to be happy and live longer visit your local shelter and adopt that dog watching the door right now, waiting to adopt you and love you.
DEAR OLD TRAINER: I was skeptical, but I took your advice and stopped by the shelter to see if a dog made a special connection with me and you were right! A beautiful heeler mix made eye contact with me and I knew I couldn’t leave without her. Maggie will eat anything, but she prefers table scraps and hates kibble. What should I feed her?
Marie, San Luis Obispo, Calif.
A: Whatever makes you and Maggie happy. After all, dogs got along fine without kibble for six million years or so before they got a taste of our ancestors’ leftovers and decided it was time to domesticate man.
Then they prospered another 35,000 years before commercial dog food was invented.
Most dogs prefer table scraps. The first time I offered kibble to Blue, the dog I adopted out of a homeless encampment in Golden Gate Park, she was as shocked as Kim Kardashian in a Wal-Mart. Blue was used to table scraps and didn’t recognize kibble as real food.
Protein is vital to the canine diet so monitor the leftovers to ensure Maggie is getting adequate protein and she will thrive eating the same items you eat.
A trainer for more than 30 years, Jack Haskins has rescued, trained and placed more than 2,500 dogs. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.