Corrales, the Spanish word for corrals, underscores the village’s longstanding acceptance of animals in daily life. Horses, sheep, goats, cattle and llamas have always been part of the Corrales landscape. Early Corraleños looked to their animals less as pets and more as an essential part of subsistence farming and ranching. Today, though, as fewer and fewer Corrales residents rely on farming and ranching for their living, animals are likely looked upon more as companions.
Even though our four-legged friends may not be able to hold a conversation with us, evidence shows that their company can translate into health benefits for their two-legged owners.
Merriam-Webster Dictionary’s first definition of pet is a pampered and usually spoiled child, but that’s a topic for another day. The second definition is the one I want to talk about – a domesticated animal kept for pleasure rather than utility. I like Wikipedia’s definition best – an animal kept primarily for a person’s company, protection, and/or entertainment rather than as a working animal, sport animal, livestock, or laboratory animal.
Villagers who are proud owners of a pet dog, cat, horse, llama, rabbit or _______ (fill in the blank) can validate the strong bond that often develops between humans and their animal companions. Scientific evidence suggests that this bond can lead to humans living longer and healthier lives. National Institute of Health (NIH) scientist Dr. James Griffen noted that although there are relatively few well-controlled studies, “the general belief is that there are health benefits to owning pets, both in terms of psychologlical growth and development, as well as physical health benefits.”
Although not definitive, NIH studies have noted that pet owners often have lower blood pressure, cholesterol and heart rates. Another NIH study looked at adults who suffered heart attacks and found that, regardless of the severity, pet owners were significantly more likely to be alive after one year than those who did not.
How could this be? One explanation is that dog owners, on average, get more exercise than those who don’t.. Another possibility is that interaction with all types of pets (rabbits, horses, dogs, guinea pigs, fish – yes even fish) has been shpwn to improve mood and reduce anxiety. Also, a good body of evidence showing that depression and anxiety are risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
But even if you are not interested in what good ole Rover’ might do for your heart, just having a loyal companion that makes us smile with an enthuseastic wag or hearty neigh, meow, or baa is often enough to convince us that pets are a good thing. So, smile if you are the proud owner of a Corrales pet because you are probably healthier for it – and if you aren’t a pet owner yet there are plenty of furry friends out there ready for adoption.
That said, let me offer a couple of cautionary notes regarding pets, especially turtles, because of the risk of contracting human Salmonella infection. Salmonella is a bacterial infection most commonly affecting the digestive tract with fever, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and vomiting. The infection typically lasts up to 7 days and, fortunately, most infections do not require antibiotics or other treatment other than hydration unless there is invasive disease. Nevertheless, Salmonella is responsible for one million illnesses in the United States, with nineteen thousand hospitalizations and three hundred eighty deaths annually.
Aside from turtles, other pets who can carry Salmonella include reptiles (snakes, lizards), amphibians (especially frogs), poultry (chicks, chickens, ducklings and rodents (hamsters). Infected animals can appear happy, healthy, and clean and still be shedding Salmonella. Although young children are especially at risk, anyone can get sick from handling the animal or its environment, including the water from containers or aquariums where they live. In fact, small turtles (shell less than 4 inches) are so risky that their sale as pets has been banned by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) since 1975. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a report about an outbreak of Salmonella infection involving one hundred thirty two people in 2011 linked to pet turtles. The CDC noted that it was the fifth multistate outbreak of human Salmonella infection in five years.
In selecting a pet, remember the following tips from the CDC:
• Pets associated with Salmonella are not recommended for children younger than five years or other people whose immune system may be at risk.
• Small turtles are not appropriate pets.
• Remember to wash hands well after handling animals or the animal’s environment.
• Clean your pet’s tank or other habitat outside the home — not in the kitchen sink or bathtub.
Remember, pets are part of the family. It’s important to take care of them so that they can take care of you.
https://www.nih.gov/ (https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2009/february/feature1.htm) (https://consensus.nih.gov/1987/1987healthbenefitspetsta003html.htm)
Pet ownership and physical health. Matchock et al. Curr Opin Psychiatry. 2015 Sep;28(5):386.
Social Behaviors Increase in Children with Autism in the Presence of Animals Compared to Toys. Marguerite O’Haire et al, PLOS.org, Feb 27, 2013Affiliation School of Population Health, The University of Queensland, Herston, Queensland, Australia .
Children Reading to Dogs: A Systematic Review of the LiteratureAffiliation School of Life Sciences, University of Lincoln, Lincoln, United Kingdom , Sophie Hall et al, PLOS, Feb 22, 2016.
Animal-Assisted Therapy and Nutrition in Alzheimer’s Disease. Nancy E. Edwards et al. Western Journal of Nursing Research,2002,24(6),697-712.
Reduction of state-anxiety by petting animals in a controlled laboratory experiment. Shoshana Shiloh et al. Anxiety, Stress and Coping. Pages 387-395 | Published online: 12 May 2010.
Health Benefits of Animal-Assisted Interventions. Michelle Morrison. Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine. Vol 12, Issue 1, 2007.