Adding years to our lives

Sammy and Bentley

If you want to live longer, get a dog. Those of us who own a dog have a lower risk of early death, according to a recent study published in Scientific Reports.

So, I should be in pretty good shape, but I would own a dog even if it had no health benefits.

As the owner of two Basset Hounds — or maybe I should say the one owned by two Basset Hounds — there are thousands of rewards these two guys bring into our family.

Bentley joined the Staman family about six years ago as a puppy. He was wired for mischief and a little bundle of energy. The little guy quickly became the center of attention. He was in your lap, chewing on everything and not real happy if you dared leave him at home alone.

Just having Bentley in the home brought new life, excitement and movement. We played together in the backyard, took walks and if he still had leftover energy at the end of the night, and he usually did, there would be a romp through the house at a thousand miles an hour. You stayed out of his way and let him empty his energy reserves. He would finish his romp by dropping on the floor in front of you with his sad eyes looking up at you.

He would use those same sad puppy dog eyes to tell you he wanted to go for a walk.

We added a second dog to give Bentley a friend to play with during the day. She came from the Panhandle Humane Society, a Bassett Hound mix named Lucy.

The two became best friends. Unfortunately, Lucy was a digger and one day she dug under the fence. She and her brother both escaped. Her brother made it back, she didn’t. She was hit by a truck and killed. It was a sad day in the Staman household.

Bentley took it the hardest. He would go to the back door and look for his sister. He moped around, stopped eating and was heartbroken. So, we found Sammy, through a Bassett Hound rescue in Colorado.

The connection between Bentley and Sammy was instant. Sammy quickly found a soft spot in Linda’s (my wife) and my heart.

There are so many emotional health benefits to pet ownership with their unconditional love, but the study focused on the physical health benefits. They found benefits such as a lower risk of cardiovascular disease in owners of dogs, particularly hunting breeds.

Why?

I can assure you tonight when I get home I will be met at the door by Bentley and Sammy. Before I can even put away my camera bag they will be telling me, “Dad, it’s time for your nightly walk.”

They get in front of me, sit down and look at me with those sad eyes that say, “PLEASE, PLEASE let us take you for your walk.”

Bentley will even add in a whine.

So, almost every night, they take me outside for about a 20-30 minute walk, which gives me some physical activity.

The study also found dogs change their owner’s bacterial microbiome.

A microbiome, according to Wikipedia, is “the ecological community of commensal, symbiotic and pathogenic microorganisms that literally share our body space.”

Our little family members change the dirt in a home’s environment, adding to our microbiome community, exposing us humans to bacteria we might not encounter otherwise. These new dirt encounters help build up our immune systems.

Now the dirt Bentley and Sammy track in is never seen as a benefit as we try to clean up after the two. But the main reason we have these two little family members is really for the sheer joy they bring to our family.

They are there to snuggle and they seem to have a sixth sense to know when we humans need a little extra loving.

So if you are looking for a way to improve your lifespan, consider adding a dog to your family. Give the Panhandle Humane Society a call. They would be a great place to start. But don’t add them to the family just for the health benefits, understand they need your love, your attention and you need to be willing to allow them to take you for those walks you need.

These little health benefits are members of the family and, as family members, they have and will always have a special place in the Staman family.

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