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Bow Wow Meow Press

June 23, 2008

Staying Young and Fit With Your Best Friend

Exercising with Your Pet can Lead to a Longer Life

by Buzz Miller (Main Line Times - Fall 2007)

A senior can derive multiple benefits living with a companion animal. It is such a wonderful way to stay young and fit.

The human/animal bond was never clearer to me than watching the unconditional love between Adelene Miller and her Collie named Laddie. My mother, 92, got her only form of exercise (As far as I can remember my mother never cleaned the house or made anything except reservations) by walking Laddie every day, rain or shine. You must be thinking, Laddie couldn't have lived all those years, but he did. My mother named every one of her five adopted Collies, after each one went to heaven, Laddie!

You would see my mother walking, with Laddie leading the way, through the neighborhood each day and late at night before they turned in, mother on her chair lift and Laddie dragging up the steps huffing and puffing to lay by her bed. Everyone knew my mother and Laddie in the neighborhood. She was the friendly lady that walked the Collie and stopped to talk with all the neighbors along the way.

I swear those dogs kept my mother fit and trim, along with keeping her young at heart. She took Laddie for a walk, never realizing that Laddie took her for her only daily exercise. Their daily walks gave her a recognized name to the entire neighborhood, who became her friends because of her human/animal bond with her best friend. Laddie went with her to the market to buy their food and treats. He spent all of his days keeping her company around the neighborhood as well as in the house.

Now visualize that Laddie was a big Collie and my mother is barely 5' tall. It was rare that you saw one without the other. Her car was his kennel on wheels and it smelled every inch like Laddie. The car interior had slurp spudge everywhere, but she could care less. She took him to the Post Office to pick up her mail. Laddie was her pal - each and every one of them, and she loved them all the same.

You know, I think my mother found the answer to a dog lover's prayer with her unique formula. Her dog never died, because she got the identical breed and never changed his name. It didn't matter if it was a boy or a girl, the name was Laddie. People saw her walking around the neighborhood with the same dog for decades. They probably never realized if it was Laddie three, four or five. My mother has never wanted to move out of her home, since my father passed. She had her best friend Laddie, who gave her a purpose and kept her fit while he protected her and never made her feel alone in that great big house .

The last Laddie was actually a bit more work than the others. He had a mouth full of crooked teeth and a jaw that didn't quite let him slurp water without it running down the sides of his mouth all over the kitchen floor. He actually wasn't even a full breed Collie. He was pawned off as a pure breed but she didn't have the heart to say no to a not quite Laddie. It didn't stop her from naming him Laddie though. (I think George Foreman got the idea to name all of his children George, after copying my mother. I don't know how they met but I swear they must have.)
The kitchen floor was a small pond of water at all times. It didn't bother my mother. She laid a bunch of newspapers down on the floor to suck up the water. #5's eyes were slightly crossed too, but my mother never found him to be a burden or odd looking. She considered him special. Laddie was her constant companion and her best friend.

When my sister, who lives in Tucson, Arizona, took a stroke over ten years ago, my mother went to look after her for ten months. In her absence she hired a young lady to walk Laddie twice a day and make sure he was being cared for as she did. She would have never considered putting Laddie in a kennel. She called to see how he was on a regular basis too. After all, that is what you do for your child and your best friend - you take care of them. When the last Laddie went to heaven, my Mom wanted to get another dog. She realized that, since she was approaching 90, it would be difficult to walk an 80 pound dog that was larger than she was and care for him as she had always been able to do in the past.

Leave it to my mother. It wasn't long before she had another dog to keep her company. The dog across the street adopted her as soon as he moved in. Sneakers would leave her home through the dog door, knock on the kitchen door and spend most of the day with my mother . Sneakers sensed that she needed a companion, even if it was part time. She again had a dog who was almost her own. In fact, when the neighbors left for a trip to Europe and their adult son came to look in on her each day, Sneakers preferred to run across the street to stay with her best friend. I am sure that if Sneakers could talk, she would have opted to stay with my mother forever - the human/animal bond was that strong. Actually, visitation rights worked for my mother, giving her a dog fix, similar to a grandchild without the full time responsibility.

One night, when she was walking Sneakers across the street, as she did each night during the neighbor's absence, she tripped over her leash and dislocated her shoulder, pinching a nerve in her spine. My mother no longer exercises, walking Laddie or any other dog. For a while she went to physical therapy after the fall, to work on getting her strength back. Walking a dog doesn't seem like work. Exercising, for a 92 year old person, is work so she soon stopped. I have always believed that my mother's longevity has been partly because of Laddie, all five of them!


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