Animal Magic

Titus the Therapy Dog. Photo by Wade Coggeshall

Titus the Therapy Dog, a four-year-old chocolate lab, makes the rounds every Wednesday at Brownsburg Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Indiana to dispense what owner CindyKay Graham calls “The Titus Touch.”

Dog owners have long known about the healing power of a wet nose and a wagging tail, and the rest of the world seems to be catching on. Therapy dogs are increasingly being trained to bring their stress-reducing balm to Alzheimer’s patients, stroke victims, and children in cancer wards.

After a 1980 study indicating that pet owners live longer than other people, research on the therapeutic benefits of animals has been on the rise.

The Journal of the American Heart Association detailed findings from a study of single stockbrokers who had suffered severe hypertension. While a control group took blood pressure medication, other brokers took medication and also took in a dog or a cat. After six months, the pet-owning brokers fared far better under stress.

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