Sunday, February 28, 2016

Everything I Need To Know About Health I Learned from My Dog

It's been a little more then a month since I had to make the decision to put my dog Rocco to sleep.  A tumor had ruptured by his spleen and in a matter of days he went from a vibrant dog full of energy, to unable to raise up on his legs.  To say it sucked, would be an understatement.  It was a strange combination of easy/hard and to say goodbye.  You never want something you love to be in pain, so it was easy.  You don't want to lose something you love, so that was hard.  That is pretty much life.  

After a few weeks of missing him I started to think about how amazing dogs are.  There are a lot of health benefits to having a dog.  Here are a few.

Reduction in stress.  People with dogs in their lives were able to deal with stressful situations with less anger.  Lower blood pressure.  Just the act of petting a dog will lower ones blood pressure.  Increase in the feel good neurotransmitters were also measured with those that owned dogs.  Kids tend to have less asthma and allergies when they grow up with dogs.  People tend to exercise more,  dogs keep you moving.  This is less obesity and less arthritic pain episodes.  There is also a tendency to be more social when you own a dog.  This can have several trickle down effects of health as staying social is related to lots of positive health scores.  

I always enjoyed the book, "Everything I Need to Know, I Learned In Kindergarten," by Robert Fulghum.  So in honor of my late friend, I've thought about that and here is my take.

Everything I Need to Know About Health I Learned From My Dog.

1.  Wake up and Pandiculate.  Pandiculation isn't stretching, it's a way of contracting your muscles and then releasing them.  It is a way of keeping your spine healthy and we naturally do it when we yawn.  Do this every day, multiple times of day. 

2.  Drink water.  Drink lots of water.  Hydrating is important. 

3.  Go poop everyday.  You would be surprised how important this is for your health.  You literally need to get the "crap" out of your body.  Don't hold on to your waste.

4.  Play.  We don't stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing.  There is so much truth in this.  Play games, don't just exercise, find a hobby you love doing, play at it.  

5.  Exercise.  Dogs love to walk, run, wrestle, tug of war and play fetch.  In fact, this is just what humans need.  Walking (slow endurance) wrestle and tug of war (some resistance exercise) Fetch, some faster interval workouts with small amounts of rest.

6.  Hang out with those you love.  Most of the time dogs just want to be with you.  Laying in the same room as you do whatever.  Hang out with those you find important.  

7.  Greet everyone with a wag of the tail.  Greet everyone as a potential friend.  The world would be a better place if we all did this.  

8.  Eat Good Food, but not all of it.  Rocco would eat until he was full, but wouldn't eat all the food in his bowl if he wasn't hungry.  Learn to stop eating when you are not hungry.  Just because it's on your plate, doesn't mean you need to finish it.

9.  Sleep.  Healthy dogs sleep like 12-16 hours a day.  Humans tend to not sleep enough.  Take naps, get your rest.  Sleeping is so undervalued.  Every day we realize more and more how lack of sleep is detrimental to our overall health.

10.  Lay in the sun.  When you find some sun, lay in it.  Get your Vitamin D.  Relax and Enjoy.

We rescued him around 7 years ago.  They thought he was about 3 when we did.  He had been walking the streets of Oklahoma City when he was picked up, they thought he was a Katrina Dog.  I wish he had lived longer, but am thankful he got to be a great friend to my oldest daughter Piper and got to spend a year and half with my youngest Skyler.  He will be missed, but I'm grateful for all the days of friendship and health that he taught me.