“Get yourself a dog”

Percentage by which owning a dog lowers ones risk of death:  24

From Harper’s Index, January 2020


Caroline Kramer, Mount Sinai Hospital (Toronto), compiled and analyzed all the studies she could find on the subject of health benefits associated with owning a dog, dating all the way back to 1980.  She quantified cardiovascular and other physical and mental areas of human health that benefit from dog ownership.

After an incident like a heart attack a dog owner has a 31 percent lower risk of death than someone in a similar situation without a dog.

There are many reasons for this phenomenon, some obvious, others more mysterious.

Walking a dog is exercise.  Petting a dog lowers stress, blood pressure.  Having a dog to talk to and care for eases the lonely sense of isolation that affects us all to varying degrees.  Cholesterol numbers are better among dog owners.  Why?  Indeed, this is only one question among many.

When and how did working animals become emotional objects of affection with health benefits?

If you get a second dog does it change your relationship with the first dog?

Which breeds are the best “chick magnets”?  Hint…Siberian Huskies

By what percentage do cat owners have higher risk of death?

Are some dog breeds better for your health than others?  Do the smaller breeds create anxiety and encourage narcissism?  Actually, little dogs are great comfort to their owners and caring for something beyond yourself is the best medicine for narcissism.

The most popular dog among the highly educated is the Golden Retriever.  What do they know?

Boarder Collies, said to be the smartest breed, require hours of exercise, and are happiest when they have a job.

Labradoodles are hypoallergenic.  Akitas form strong bonds with their owners, are very protective and patiently wait until their owner is ready for an activity.  Huskies are playful and demand someone play or walk them..often.

However, these traits don’t really matter when choosing a dog because any dog you choose will be crazy happy to see you walk in the front door.  Everybody has their favorite breed already firmly established in their world view of dogs.

Although not discussed in Caroline Kramer’s extensive study is the need dogs feel to protect us, which can lead to longer, safer lives.  Love them or fear them, the so-called Pit Bulls are very enthusiastic watch dogs.  They are also the most common dog at the animal shelter.

A well-trained Belgian Malinois can track down, knock down and detain a full-grown man.  A German Shepherd’s bark can make a would-be burglar question his career choice.

Any dog will bark at a suspicious noise.

A gun used for protection is only as smart as its owner.  Dogs, by comparison, are not subject to this limitation.  They can think and act independently of their owner.  Many dogs can quickly assess a situation and are keen judges of character.

If a gun has an accident the results can be devastating.  If a dog has an accident some paper towels, a few stern words and all is forgiven.  Sadly, and far too often in this country, a man will reach a temporary level of anger and self-pity and reach for a convenient gun (ironically meant to protect him) and put a permanent end to his life.

Suicide by dog is an extremely rare event in any country.  A dog can tear flesh and cause pain, but this is rare and if unjustified is met with swift consequences.  Many sensitive dogs are capable of empathy, especially if their owner is feeling blue or subject to illness.

One reason would-be dog owners hesitate to get a dog is fear of the deep pain of losing a dog.  They don’t want to be like Mr. Bojangles, still grieving after twenty years.

It’s inevitable, part of the deal, something you quietly acknowledge when you fall in love with a puppy.  And when it happens and it really hurts you need to remember all the joy, the good walks, the eye contact and the talks you had.  To deny yourself the health benefits and happiness over years of companionship because of the natural process is unfair to you and your potential dog.  If it helps, tell yourself you will one day meet again.  It might even make your own death a little easier.

A man walking around the neighborhood alone is viewed with suspicion or pity.  A man with a dog belongs.  Get yourself a dog.

After the death of a cherished dog, maybe three months, maybe a year, you find a puppy or get a rescue, or visit the pound.  Maybe a different breed than the last one; a Bulldog, a Sheepdog, a Bird Dog, a little dog or a big dog.  Mixed breeds are the most unique and usually healthier than pure breeds.

When your dog up and dies its not the end of the world, it’s the end of a beautiful friendship.

6 thoughts on ““Get yourself a dog”

  1. Love your article. And yes the
    Loss of your four legged family member is devastating! This reader chooses to grandparent the children’s dog and not be responsible for the tough decisions.
    If I did it again, my pick is still the German Shepard.
    Thanks for posting.

    1. Dogs definitely leave an imprint on your heart. I have very fond memories of Cokie and Shannon❤️

      1. Wow; nice to hear from you. I have had 12 dogs in my life and those two definitely stand out

  2. Great article! Our dog is a big part of our family, just like the others that have passed on. I will forward your article to friends who are considering adopting a dog.

  3. Fabulous… good to see you writing again.

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