It was Autumn’s (my chocolate Labrador) second birthday yesterday we spent the day out in the sunshine enjoying nature and the water 2 of her very favourite things besides blueberries and green smoothies.   Since she’s such a wonderful part of my life I thought I would write about the health benefits of companion animals.  As I sit here writing this Autumn is lounging behind me; it doesn’t matter where I sit she’s always got one part of her body touching me.

In the October 2008 Alternative & Complementary Therapies Journal there is a review on the health benefits of the human-animal bond:

Edward T. Creagan, M.D., a professor of medical oncology at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, considers pets to be so beneficial to patients devastated by the emotional impact of a cancer diagnosis that he “prescribes” pets as part of treatment plans for many of his patients and notes the names of their pets in medical charts. Dr. Creagan said: “I think it creates healing of the soul. Some of the anger and the resentment is channelled in a positive way for caring for the pet.

Exploring the Health Benefits of Pets published in the New York Times in 2009  quotes Karin Winegar author of Saved: Rescued Animals and the Lives They Transform  “The human-animal bond bypasses the intellect and goes straight to the heart and emotions and nurtures us in ways that nothing else can.”

In the last few years there has been quite a bit of exciting research done around canines keen sense of smell and detecting early stage cancer.  Since 90% of cancers are preventable if caught before they reach stage 2 this is some pretty exciting research.  Read this article for interesting findings around lung and breast cancer.  How about melanoma?  Your canine friend could smell out a potentially lethal mole in the MIT Technology Review the article called The Smell of Cancer  states that “skin-cancer tumors give off a characteristic odor profile that could be used for early detection”  Beyond the psychological benefits of having a dog as your best friend and family member they could potentially save your life by being an early warning cancer detector!

We adopted Autumn when she was 8 weeks old on the first day of Autumn.  The summer when I got my cancer diagnosis and treatment I spent a month on the couch at times feeling sorry for myself and other times I was trying to find a non-cancer related mission to distract myself with.   That mission became: adopt a dog.  I found myself looking on all sorts of adoption websites.  I would visit the local animal shelter a couple of times a week to see if my dog was there.  It took 2 months of searching until I saw the ad on kijiji for little Autumn.  It was love at first sight.   From day one she has brought so much joy into my life.   Even though a couple months had passed after my surgeries it was still uncomfortable to walk around but Autumn gave me the incentive to get up and out.  Every morning and evening we’d go for long walks along the seawall rain or shine.  When I felt lonely or sad Autumn was right there to do something silly to make me laugh.  For the past 22 months that she’s been in my life she has been a running buddy, a taste tester of my recipes, couch cuddler, and her love and enthusiasm of life and water is always a great source of entertainment.   Happy Birthday Autumn thank you for being such a joy in my life!