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Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Not Just Tail Chasers! Tales of Amazing Dogs

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By Grace Chen

Since the earliest humans roamed the earth, dogs have been an integral part of our society. A social animal, dogs easily adapt to life with humans, often earning their own position within the family. They offer comfort, warmth, safety, and unconditional love. But dogs have other talents, too!

Paging Doctor Spot

There are several anecdotal case reports of dogs having saved the lives of their owners. Not by barking a warning, as one would imagine, but by diagnosing illness. First viewed as quaint human-interest stories, the claims are earning the attention of scientists. Dogs studied in England have detected bladder cancer with remarkable accuracy, and scientists in San Francisco have achieved promising results with canine predictions on lung and breast cancer. Highly olfactory animals, dogs can sense subtle changes in odors emanating from the human body long before a human might. Dogs Do Amazing Things!The canines in these studies were able to consistently and accurately distinguish urine and breath samples of cancer patients from samples of healthy subjects. Experts hope to one day identify and replicate the mechanisms by which dogs recognize illness.

A Dalmatian A Day…

Dogs have also been shown to provide a number of other health benefits, including decreased blood pressure, reduced stress, and elevated mood. Studies have shown lower levels of stress among pet owners than those without pets. In addition, health benefits such as lower blood pressure and lower cholesterol are derived from the required walking of a dog. Simply sitting and stroking a pet has proven to lower spikes in blood pressure and elevate mood.

Hero Hounds

In addition to sniffing out potential health problems, dogs are steadfast guardians. Numerous cases of dogs alerting their owners to fire or other dangers have been recorded among varying breeds, including the tiny Chihuahua. Many different canine breeds were used for the search and rescue efforts after the September 11 attacks. Dogs have also been known to mother lost or abandoned infants, keeping them warm and safe until help arrived. A young golden retriever in Maryland was even recorded as having saved his owner from choking by performing modified abdominal thrusts similar to the Heimlich maneuver.

Hot Dog!

Dogs have also been described engaging in other activities not often associated with canines. Recently, Tillie, a Jack Russell terrier in Brooklyn, New York, held a gallery showing of original artwork. She created her masterpieces by applying paint to canvas with her paws, claws, and teeth. In Long Island, Bentley, a boxer mix left in an idling automobile, wiggled behind the wheel, somehow managed to put the vehicle in gear, and promptly crashed into a coffee shop. No injuries were reported, but the motoring mutt intrigued locals. In Melbourne, Australia, Pikelet, a young greyhound, has begun to sing opera. He joins his master, a noted performer with the Melbourne Opera, in her rehearsal sessions, often matching her note for note.

Dogs are worthy companions, offering love and support without condition. In many cases, they also preserve human life, rescuing us from certain harm or even death. Whatever the case, dogs truly have earned the distinction of being man's best friend.

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