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I love Lucy, who's good for your health

Have I mentioned we have a new puppy?  She’s almost 4 months old — a particularly special breed of spaniel with silky, reddish-brown-and-white fur and big soulful eyes. Without qualification, this new pooch entertains us from dawn to dusk. But I must add, she is “all puppy, all the time.” I think the most difficult behavior this week has been her penchant for chewing socks — while they’re still on your feet.

This little dog romps and races around our now-smaller and more age-friendly, fenced-in yard in a kind of crooked, galloping manner that the vet explained is because of the fact her little behind is going faster than her front legs. She’s definitely developing a personality that lives up to her ancestors who bore names like “Lucille Ball” and “Son-of-a-Gun.” 

We call our new addition “Lucy.” I think my husband agreed to that name so he could do Desi Arnaz impressions — his almost perfect rendition of, “Lucy I’m home …” always gets her streaking and sliding across our floor to greet him, wiggling hello. Everybody deserves an enthusiastic hello like that —s ets the stage for a better-than-usual day. I honestly think my often-distracted and always-busy husband has become mellower — more patient — since Lucy arrived. 

Research supports pet ownership has benefits that range from reduced risk of heart disease to better overall mental health. In a recent large Australian study, the benefits were dramatic in terms of “lowered blood pressure and better triglyceride and cholesterol levels. “ One of the Australian researchers commented, in presenting the results of his study, “If this were a drug, it would be marketed tomorrow.” If you have a pet, bask in those comments. If you have friends with cats or dogs, maybe you should spend more time with them?

I have blogged about Lucy on the Mail Tribune’s community blog site.  So has my hubby. We are smitten — http://blogs.esouthernoregon.com/age-friendly-living/  In our household, we I have a long history of acquiring and then losing to death or “adopting-out” family dogs. The transitional nature of the last two years means we have been without a pooch for longer than preferred. So we changed that. There are many reasons a dog is a good addition to a household — and there are a few problems. And accompanying solutions — there are always solutions.  

Puppies that scurry around your feet constantly (“ankle-hugging” is the term) or drag their stuffed toys and half-chewed bones into every room — putting you “in harm’s way” and at risk of tripping and falling — can be problematic. One approach would be not giving the animal so many toys to play with, I suppose. Or you could get a large wire “play” pen that holds the dog periodically and the toys constantly? For those of you who are contemplating a dog purchase, we discovered that crate training our Lucy was a wise and wondrous decision. She sleeps in a semi-spacious wire crate on a fluffy pad, and we have no worries about tripping on her when we get up in the night. (That’s a particularly important consideration for any older adults who are dog owners.)

No pets? No worries. But do this, if you will — please scratch Lucy under her chin if you encounter our pooch with us on a neighborhood walk. It will make her (you) doggone happy.

Sharon Johnson is a retired Oregon State University associate professor emeritus. Reach her at Sharon@hmj.com.