January 2, 2009
Table of Contents
(Introduction to special issue)
Furry Friends (The
healing power of pets)
Try a Cat for Heart Health
The Literary Pet
- A Warm and Fuzzy New Year
Warm and Fuzzy New Year
Here at the American Senior Fitness Association (SFA), we're
starting off 2009 on a light -- you might even say "fluffy" -- note. To
our readers who are devoted to a beloved companion pet, here's to your
good health. And, to all of our Experience! readers, have
a vibrant and invigorating new year!
Critters for the Cure is a Gaithersburg MD-based agency that
puts a face on breast cancer and partners with community organizations
to form breast cancer alliances. One effective consciousness-raising
activity the group performs is producing its annual Critters Calendar,
which features breast cancer survivors and their pets. The 2009 calendar
includes 13 human models along with 13 dogs and puppies, two cats, and a
guinea pig named Lily.
for the Cure raises funds for a special program called the Critters
Patient Treatment Assistance Fund (CPTAF). It helps uninsured and
under-insured women with the financial gaps in breast cancer care that
are not covered by government assistance programs. This might include
aid with medical bills and treatment-related transportation costs, or
the purchase of wigs and anti-nausea drugs. It can provide additions to
traditional medical care, for example, acupuncture, massage therapy, and
biofeedback. CPTAF even helps pay for dog-walking and veterinary bills.
That is because Critters for the Cure is a strong advocate for the
healing power of pets.
For more information about Critters for the Cure, click on
One poignant excerpt from the
website discusses how dogs help their people: "They do something for us
that rarely a human companion can do. No matter how ... many mistakes
you make or how often you make them, regardless of your looks, income or
social standing, your dog never judges you. He always thinks you are
wonderful and loves you with all his heart."
Carol Guzy, writing for the Washington Post, interviewed the women
who were photographed with their animal friends for the 2009 Critters
Calendar. Describing how much her pets meant to her while she was
battling breast cancer, one survivor said, "Just their warm heartbeat
lying next to me was incredibly healing."
Try a Cat for Heart Health
Editor's note: As the new year begins, we'd like to take this
opportunity to thank the many talented SFA writers who helped make
Experience! such an informative -- and internationally popular --
newsletter in 2008. The list includes, but is not limited to: Jan
Montague, Jerry Hart, Dr. Terri Katz, Andy Baxter, Gregg Goodrich, a
number of outstanding authors whose works we reprinted from previous SFA
publications, and of course our industrious SFA staff writers! We are
wishing all of you an excellent 2009. And that brings us to our most
prolific freelance contributer of all, Jim Evans. Jim is a 41-year
veteran of the health-fitness profession who regularly shares his
knowledge and insights with the readers of Experience! Today, as
always, he's right on-topic -- talking pets. Thanks and Happy New Year,
DEAR JIM: My wife, age 69, has a calico cat, and she insists that
this cat makes her feel better. She even dressed it up for Christmas
this year with a ribbon around its neck and jingle bells. Personally,
I'm not a cat lover, and I tolerate this particular cat only because it
seems to make my wife happy. But how can a cat make anyone "feel"
better? I always thought dogs gave certain people an emotional lift, but
cats??? SKEPTIC IN SKOKIE
DEAR SKEPTIC: Your wife probably has no idea why her cat makes
her feel better but, believe it or not, recent research shows that cats
may actually lower the risk of heart attack and stroke by helping to
relieve the stress and anxiety typically linked to coronary disease.
for the Minnesota Stroke Institute in Minneapolis found that "people who
do not own cats have a 40 percent higher risk of dying from a myocardial
infarction than people who do keep cats as pets," according to Adnan
Qureshi, MD. (Source: "Cats May Protect Owners Against Cardiovascular
Death" by Ed Susman, MedPage Today)
"Cats are, by and large, easier to care for and more manageable
[compared to many other kinds of pets], especially among older persons,"
said Qureshi. "Cats also tend to help build a person's self-esteem,
which could be diminished by risk factors for heart attack such as
obesity, mobility problems, or injury. We know that cats are helpful in
rehabilitation from injuries and illnesses such as stroke."
These results should still be considered preliminary, but if the
findings can be substantiated, cat ownership might be accepted as a
cost-effective intervention in reducing heart attacks and possibly other
cardiovascular events, such as stroke, for high-risk individuals,
according to Dr. Qureshi.
Sounds like you might want to jump on the kitty bandwagon and make
friends with your wife's cat or adopt one for yourself to reduce your
stress level. Your local pet shelter has a nice selection to choose from
-- even for a crusty old cat avoider like you. Chill out and appreciate
that your wife might be right on this one!
The Literary Pet
thinkers have had much to say about cats and dogs throughout the
years. Here are some memorable quotations from a few articulate fans of
everything feline and canine:
"A cat improves the garden wall in sunshine, and the hearth in foul
great pleasure of a dog is that you may make a fool of yourself with him
and not only will he not scold you, but he will make a fool of himself
Butler, Notebooks, 1912
"It is impossible to keep a straight face in the presence of one or
-- Cynthia E.
"There is no psychiatrist in the world like a puppy licking your
"I believe cats to be spirits come to earth. A cat, I am sure, could
walk on a cloud without coming through."
-- Jules Verne
"Dogs are miracles with paws."
to Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy
"Are we really sure the purring is coming from the kitty and not from
our very own hearts?"
"We long for an affection altogether ignorant of our faults. Heaven
has accorded this to us in the uncritical canine attachment."
Experience! readers: Thank
you for your interest and questions. Due to the high volume of contacts SFA
receives, we cannot respond to individual queries or comments. However, the
newsletter does address frequently asked questions and topics of vital interest
to our members.
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