If you’re an animal lover—civilian or professional—you know the special relationship we have with our fellow creatures makes our lives, and often theirs, better. Your encounters may be with a loved pet, service dog, store mascot, farm flock, local wildlife, or therapy animal.
All of these can lower your blood pressure and raise your happiness. In fact, the effect is so powerful, scientists study it as a safe way to prevent illness and heal the heart. Well-done studies don’t always show a benefit, but many do.
To celebrate the human-animal bond, here are 12 of my favorite articles from 2015. Some are rigorous research findings. Others tell the story of one kind of animal helping another. All of them will make you smile.
- Tiny stray dog saves dying man. Stray dog and dying man save each other. When this little dog chose their car and jumped in, Bill’s wife was bringing him home from surgery for advanced cancer. Read how they gave each other the strength to go on. http://buff.ly/1AMC47A
- Beneficial effects of animal-assisted visits on quality of life during multimodal radiation-chemotherapy regimens. B. Fleishman, P. Homel, M.R. Chen, V. Rosenwald, V.Abolencia, J. Gerber, and S. Nadesan. Animal assisted visits improved social and emotional wellbeing in patients with head and neck cancer, even as their physical health declined. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=Bene%C2%80cial+effects+of+animal-assisted+visits+on+quality+of+life+during+multimodal+radiation-chemotherapy+regimens+Stewart+B+Fleishman+et+al
- Kitty compassion: Stray cat saves homeless baby’s life. Samantha Laine. (Article & video) Stray tabby finds abandoned Russian baby in dead of winter, keeps her warm and meows till someone comes. http://www.csmonitor.com/The-Culture/2015/0117/Kitty-compassion-Stray-cat-saves-homeless-baby-s-life-video
- Pet Talk: Human-animal bond a lifeline to those living on the fringes. Monique Balas. Pets keep homeless and mentally ill people grounded, give them a reason to get help. http://www.oregonlive.com/pets/index.ssf/2015/01/pet_talk_human-animal_bond_a_l.html
- The girl who gets gifts from birds. Katy Sewall. Little girl began feeding the neighborhood crows. Now they bring her presents. http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-31604026
- Horses Helped This Vet With PTSD After No One Else Could. Tim Hayes. Iraqi veteran suffers severe PTSD, tries everything from exercise to diets to 5-mile runs, gets nowhere till she meets a horse on the road. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tim-hayes/horses-for-heroes-healing_1_b_7425962.html
- Informing Children in a Therapeutic School about the End of Life for the Animals in its Animal-Assisted Education and Therapy Programs; How One Organization Handles this Difficult Process. Miyako Kinoshita. Children at residential treatment and special education facility, who have already lost a lot, learn to handle loss of favorite animals. http://www.latham.org/Issues/LL_15_SP.pdf#page=14
- Ancient bobcat buried like a human being. David Grimm. Rare 2000-year-old burial contains bobcat buried with necklace of bear teeth & shells in human burial mound. The 1-of-a-kind discovery “suggests this animal had a very special place in the life of these people.” http://buff.ly/1NFetcm
- ABC News. (Video).Thoroughbred racehorses get a second career with men who need a second chance. Program in New York saves horses and gives prisoners a way to contribute to society. https://www.facebook.com/abcnews/videos/10153485692358812/
- Meet the therapy dogs who comforted during theater trial. (Video). Carefully trained theapy dogs provided support during trial to families impacted by the Aurora, Colorado mass shooting. http://www.usatoday.com/videos/news/nation/2015/08/13/31528311/
- Psychological stress affects nearly 1 in 10 veterinarians. Phyllis DeGioia. New study shows many veterinarians suffer severe stress, and fear getting help will hurt their career. Happily peer and professional support is growing. http://buff.ly/1MpwHiN
- Pet Dogs and Children’s Health: Opportunities for Chronic Disease Prevention? A. M. Gadomski, M. B. Scribani, N. Krups, P. Jenkins, Z. Nagykaldi, & A. L. Olson. Dogs protect regular kids from anxiety, says major study from Centers for Disease Control. Children with dogs watched as much screen and had the same BMI scores as those without dogs, but had less fear of being alone or meeting people. http://www.cdc.gov/pcd/issues/2015/15_0204.htm
Which human-animal bond stories made you smile this year? Drop Dr. Susan a note here at PetDecisions.com and tell her your favorites and what you’d like to see in 2016.