Posted by: secondchancehumanesociety | December 7, 2009

Heart Health for Dogs & Humans

Kassy the Kisser

I was just reading about a program that the Humane Animal Welfare Society in Waukesha, Wisconsin has developed with the Waukesha Memorial Hospital.  It pairs cardiac rehabilitation patients, who need to begin regular exercise regimes, with shelter dogs in need of walking companions.  It provides the perfect venue for the heart patients, who prior to the program were reluctantly and unenthusiastically going to the hospital rehab center and trudging along on a treadmill.  Now they can go to the Shelter where they are greeted by an exuberant dog ready to take them on a lovely stroll out in the fresh air.

Of course, the dogs benefit as much as the patients.  It is a fact that regularly walked dogs fair much better in a shelter environment, through reduced stress, greater sociability and regular training, which leads to faster and more successful adoptions.  Additionally, the individual time between the walker and the dog in an environment external to the shelter help the staff to learn more about the dog’s temperaments and how they interact with other people and dogs they are not familiar with.  This information is very beneficial for shelter staff in making the right match between the dogs and potential adopters.

The program, called “Cardiac Friends”, has become a social event for many of the participants who often meet as a group for coffee before heading to the shelter for dog walking.  Many participants credit the dogs with their success in staying in the fitness program, as most were previously not avid exercisers.  And not only do they benefit from staying motivated to keep exercising, but they gain the pride of knowing they are making a difference in the lives of homeless pets.  And, did I mention that dogwalking is great for weight loss??? (Walk a hound – lose a pound!)

 Additionally, there are the “hidden” benefits that accompany spending time with dogs, as research has shown, such as reduced blood pressure, depression, anxiety, and even a decrease in the need for pain killers in some post-operative patients.  Thus the physical and emotional well being of both walker and dog are positively affected at multiple levels.

 So, why wait for a heart attack to take advantage of the benefits of walking a shelter dog?  Walking is also a great way to prevent heart issues or just to feel good in general.  Don’t become an indoor hermit this winter.  The Second Chance Shelter is adjacent to the bike/walking path here in Ridgway – which is maintained from snow and ice and the walking conditions are lovely most afternoons.

 As I write this week’s Pet Column it is snowing outside.  I love snow.  I love how fluffy and light and refreshing it feels – it makes me jump for joy.  Why don’t we go jump around together???   My name is Kassy.  I am young, energetic, fun-loving and would love to help you stay strong and healthy.  Come by for a stroll today!!!


Call the Second Chance Helpline at 626-2273 to report a lost pet, learn about adopting a homeless pet, or about the SCHS Spay/Neuter Financial Assistance, Volunteer & Foster Care, or other Programs.  Visit our shelter pets online:  Direct Pet Column questions to:  kelly@secondchancehumanesociety.orgPhoto by Real Life Photographs.


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