Archive for Thursday, May 12, 2005

Owners take time to exercise with dogs

May 12, 2005

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Having trouble getting off the couch and exercising? Maybe Rover can help.

Some people who don't normally exercise -- and normally have trouble getting motivated to start -- have begun walking for the sake of their dogs. Now, they and their dogs are hooked, in more than one way for some.

That's the case with Tami Eisaman , a doctoral student in physical therapy at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas. She takes her yellow Labrador retrievers, Mojo and Pandora, walking in the park daily.

"They're more of the reason I stay active," said Eisaman, 35. ''I think I'd probably stay home on the couch under the air conditioning if it weren't for them."

She's not alone.

Abilene resident David Meloan, an electronics repairman, avoided dog ownership for years -- until his girlfriend gave him Pooh Bear, a large mixed-breed dog with a multicolored coat.

"I didn't want the responsibility, but then I got (Pooh Bear) and just fell in love with her," Meloan, 39, said.

For Meloan, too, dog ownership has translated into a physical fitness program.

"I wouldn't walk near as often or near as far" without Pooh Bear, he said. "So it's been a big encouragement for me to walk on a daily basis."

Both he and Eisaman say the walks also relieve stress.

"I go back home (after a walk) and I feel a lot more relaxed," Meloan said.

Though city parks can present some hazards to dogs -- Pandora needed surgery after swallowing a fish hook she found during a park outing -- most dogs benefit just as much as their owners from the exercise.

Like their owners, American dogs are putting on pounds, said Richard Meadows, a veterinarian and director of community practice at University of Missouri's College of Veterinary Medicine.

"The numbers seem to range somewhere between 15 and 25 percent of the dogs and cats in the United States are obese," he said.

Dogs bear the same risks of being overweight as humans, Meadows said. Those risks include heart and joint disease, diabetes, cancer and a shortened life span.

But neither pet nor owner should jump right off the couch and into an exercise program.

Meadows advises both humans and canines who haven't been exercising regularly to start slow.

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