Sunday, November 22, 2009

Are Pets Good For Us? - A Canine Special Report From She's So Fly

(She's So Fly editor, Sherri Russell and her favorite fly fishing companion, Grace)

There's no doubt that Americans love their pets. A new survey by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) shows that more than 57 percent of U.S. households own one or more animals. But can having pets actually provide health benefits? Yes, say experts, as long as you're not allergic to animals or terrified of them. "Pet ownership is good for your health both physically and psychologically," says Connecticut psychologist Herbert Nieburg, author of "Pet Loss: A Thoughtful Guide for Adults and Children" (HarperCollins).

Sure, pets provide companionship and unconditional love. But research has shown that they can also help reduce stress and blood pressure in owners, increase longevity in those who've had heart attacks, and even relax and improve the appetites of Alzheimer's patients. "Any disease condition that has a stress-related component to it, we believe pets could ameliorate stress and moderate the situation," says biologist Erika Friedmann, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Nursing. "It's providing a focus of attention that's outside of someone's self. They're actually letting you focus on them rather than focusing inward on yourself all the time."

Many four-legged pets, especially dogs, can also get owners off the couch. "They're there to greet you when you come home at the end of the day, and they're ready for some play and attention," says veterinarian Scott Line, associate editor of the "Merck/Merial Manual for Pet Health." "They need to exercise, so it propels people out the door." These walks also force pet owners to socialize instead of sitting around feeling sorry for themselves, which can help improve their mood. "It gives people a routine, a thing to do. You have to get up and take care of the dog. You can't lie in bed all day," says Friedmann.

I could write pages about the strengths of owning pets and why they are good for us. I could advise why so many people prefer the companionship of a pet rather than another member of the human race or how a pet can replace a deceased loved one. But I'm not going to, I am going to tell you a little about one very special dog and her owner that I have had the privelidge to meet through the sport of fly fishing.

Mike Marsh, along with his best friend, Grace, own and operate a fly fishing guide service called Marsh Ridge Guide Service in Western Michigan.

Grace is a 7 pound, female miniture daschund. She's a dascund that is obsessed with the sport of fly fishing. She even dresses for the occasion, sporting a special taylored fly fishing vest.

Mike and Grace have been guiding clients to fish in the lakes, rivers and streams for nine years. She knows which side to stand on the boat. She is not afraid to look over the edge of the boat into the water to scout for fish.

She has learned to watch an indicator and knows what it means when it goes under water – fish on! She loves being outside in the fresh air and is truly interested in fish.

Many of Mike’s clients reserve fly fishing trips simply for the experience to fish along with Grace, uncluding myself. I love Grace, she is truly an amazing dog! She has made a lasting impression on my fly fishing experiences and some fond memories that I will always cherish.

In conclusion, animals have helped us search for our basic needs and have been the defenders of our dwelling and children. They have fixed themselves in our hearts and in our homes. Come to think of it, have you ever wondered the actual reason why there are so many of us who live with their pets? In short, pets are good for us.


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