Stressed or Depressed? Try a Little Animal Therapy

Stressed or Depressed? Try a Little Animal Therapy
Dog on the all

Dog on the all

Animal therapy is nothing new, but one local dog is taking it to a new level at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland.

Joe, a black and tan Labrador, spends his days at the Naval Branch Health Clinic “visiting” patients. His job is to sniff out military members who are struggling with stress or depression who may not display obvious outward signs.

When Joe finds someone in that condition he will lay by them and refuse to leave until they feel better or someone arrives to help.

"We don't know how he knows, but he knows," Commander Tracy Krauss, a clinical nurse manager and Joe's handler, tells The Washington Business Journal.

Joe knows woes

Most likely, Krauss says the dog smells stress pheromones emitting from a person in distress.

It's a talent the military doesn't want to waste. Joe soon will be taking part in expanded suicide prevention programs for federal workers from the Department of Homeland Security and Federal Emergency Management Agency. 

Joe is the Navy's only stress-detecting dog, but Krauss wants to spread the word about how therapy dogs can impact health care in general. 

For those who find the holiday season stressful or tend to feel especially blue, adopting a dog may seem like a great idea. However,  don't let a seasonal mood shift be the reason to bring a furry friend home.

Many local shelters and rescue groups require prospective adopters to complete an extensive interview process, including questions about their lifestyle, before approving a pet adoption.

Can you commit for the long haul?

Caring for a new pet requires more than just providing food, water and shelter. You need to make sure your lifestyle is the right one for your pet. Consider these questions:

1. Why do you want to adopt a pet? Are you looking for a loyal companion for yourself, or maybe your child? Understanding why will help determine the breed that best fits your lifestyle.

2. Are you ready to make a long-term commitment? Adopting a pet requires a commitment to care for an animal for the rest of its life — that could mean 10 to 15 years for dogs and up to 20 years for cats.

3. Do you know what kind of pet is right for you? Your personality and lifestyle, along with space restrictions and amount of time spent at home, should be explored before adopting a pet. Ask shelter staffers what animals they recommend.

4. Can you afford to care for your pet's health and safety? Owning a dog or cat costs more than the initial adoption fee. Food, veterinary care, spaying or neutering and micro chipping for proper identification can add up.

5. Will you be able to spend quality time together? Both dogs and cats require daily attention. If your work demands that you travel often, or if you're out of the house most days and evenings, this may not be the right time to adopt.

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