A few days ago, I read an article about a 7-year-old from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, named Emma Mertens. On January 23, Emma was diagnosed with a Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma, a rare, inoperable brain tumor. According to the Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma Resource Network, DIPGs typically affects five-to-seven-year-olds. There are between 150 to 300 cases diagnosed a year. Emma is undergoing radiation and her one request is to receive letters and pictures from dogs. She has currently received over 100,000 letters from all fifty states and from over fifty countries around the world, as well as 3,000 e-mails an hour. The family reads the messages together and they always put a much-needed smile on this little girl’s face. This is not surprising, given the many health benefits associated with dogs.
Numerous studies have confirmed what all dog lovers already know. Dogs improve heart health, they keep you fit and active, they improve your social life, reduce stress, stave off depression, help with weight loss, reduce loneliness, help battle disease and injury, add meaning and purpose to your life, console you when you’re sad, and improve your mood, among other things. A study published by Amanda Macmillan in Time magazine on November 17, 2017, sought to prove that dogs actually improve longevity. “Researchers at Uppsala University in Sweden reviewed national registry records of Swedish men and women, ages 40 to 80. They focused on 3.4 million people who had no history of cardiovascular disease in 2001 and followed their health records—as well as whether they registered as a dog owner—for about 12 years. Dog ownership registries are mandatory in Sweden, and every visit to a hospital is recorded in a national database. They found that dog owners had a lower risk of death due to cardiovascular disease than people who did not report owning a dog, as well as a lower risk of death from other causes. That was true even after adjusting for factors such as smoking, body mass index and socioeconomic status. The protective effect was especially prominent for people living alone, who have been found to have a higher risk for early death than those who live with other people. People who lived alone with a dog had a 33% reduced risk of death, and an 11% reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, than people who lived alone without a dog.” If you don’t have a dog, volunteering at your local shelter is a good way to enjoy all the health benefits and love dogs have to offer.
If you’re lucky enough to share your life with a canine companion and would like to send Emma a note and picture from your dog, you can do so by reaching out to Team Emma via Facebook https://www.facebook.com/Team-Emma-Emmalovesdogs7-299302784023300/ via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or by visiting her website at https://www.caringbridge.org/visit/emmasfight/journal