In keeping with Earth Day, I "Googled" pets and pollution - figuring I'd write about the impact our dogs have on the environment and what we could do to minimize it.
All I found was a bunch of articles about cleaning up after your dog. So scoop the poop, people!
What I did find that was much more interesting was the positive effect of pet ownership on human health. As aggravating as they may be at times - it turns out my dogs are good for me. (Remind me of this, please, the next time I complain about those "rolling ocean" sounds coming from Dax at 3 o'clock in the morning.)
There are lots of ways that pets have a positive impact on our health; lowering blood pressure and anxiety, and now we discover that pets are good for kids with allergies - good to know this record-pollen-level Spring!
Back in the dark ages when I was a child with allergies, my mother was instructed to get rid of carpeting, drapes, upholstered furniture and the dog. So, a bit obnoxious even then, I asked the doctor what the effect of not following instructions would be. A Spartan lifestyle may be good for some, but not my taste, even then. And there was no way my dog was going anywhere without me. Basically, he told me that my nose would be stuffed. Like it had been forever.
So we went home and changed little, if anything, around the house. And umpteen years later, I can still breathe. And my face does make noise sometimes (sniffing, coughing and sneezing), which upsets my dog Roc (Mom's face is NOT allowed to make noise), but I'm fine.
And it was the right thing to do. According to researcher James E. Gern, MD, a pediatrician at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, in an article in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology cited in WebMD.com, children living with "furred animals" have fewer allergies.
In his recent study, Gern analyzed the blood of babies immediately after birth and one year later. He was looking for evidence of an allergic reaction, immunity changes, and for reactions to bacteria in the environment.
If a dog lived in the home, infants were less likely to show evidence of pet allergies -- 19% vs. 33%. They also were less likely to have eczema, a common allergy skin condition that causes red patches and itching. In addition, they had higher levels of some immune system chemicals -- a sign of stronger immune system activation.
"Dogs are dirty animals, and this suggests that babies who have greater exposure to dirt and allergens have a stronger immune system," Gern says.
Of course, we also did all kinds of things back in the day that are frowned upon now. We have a precious home movie of me, about three years old, dashing over to a pile of rocks and sticking them in my mouth. With my mother hot on my heels to extract them.
In our neighborhood the kids all played in rain puddles (especially the ones with worms); we dug in the unsanitized, neighborhood dirt; we let ants and butterflies and fireflies crawl on us and we were all okay.
I believe that the human immune system is one of the "use it or lose it" things. Healthy people should give their bodies some challenges. We all know the "five-second rule" is bogus - but if the last cookie falls on the floor, I'm still going to eat it, unless one of the dogs beats me to it.