Doctor Dogs

Nobody smiles like your dog does.

It’s the best thing: you run out for nine hours or for just a second, it’s all the same to him. He’s happy to see you come back whenever, he wiggles, he brings you toys, he chortles, and then there’s that smile. No matter what happened to your day, your dog is the best part of it and in “Doctor Dogs” by Maria Goodavage, you’ll see that she may be best for your health, too.

Your Rover is a champion sniffer.

Everything he sees gets inspected, smelled, and smelled again. It’s all interesting to him because his little nose has “up to three hundred million” olfactory receptors, as compared to your puny six million receptors. You might smell a swimming pool, says Goodavage, but a dog could “sniff out a teaspoon of a chemical in a million gallons of water…”

For centuries, humans have known about those warm, wet noses and we’ve put them to work in hunting prey, contraband, and missing people. Relatively recently, science has also expanded a dog’s nose job into something that can enhance a life, or save one.

Diabetic-alert dogs, for example, can smell when their owners’ glucose levels are either too high or too low, with a minimum 80 percent accuracy. Dogs are taught to signal the problem to the patient, thus avoiding illness, coma, or even death; some have figured out by themselves to rouse parents or caregivers if the diabetic doesn’t respond.

Knowing that their owners are about to face crisis, seizure-alert dogs are trained to warn for what’s coming. This gives sufferers a chance to find a safe place to sit or lie down and ride out the seizure or fainting spell – sometimes, with the dog on their legs or lap. Dogs also offer comfort, once the seizure is over.

Research on cancer-scent dogs is ongoing, as is work with cardiac canines. Dogs offer mobility assistance for the handicapped, they can suss out deadly bacteria, and they help PTSD sufferers, the mentally ill, and autistic children.

The only problem?

It’s one that’s all too familiar to dog lovers: “Dogs never live long enough.”

The memes say it best: We don’t deserve dogs. And if you’ve ever doubted that, then read “Doctor Dogs.”

Partly because of ancillary information gotten while writing other canine-based books, and partly due to a possible health issue of her own, author Maria Goodavage takes a good look here at a bunch of good boys (and girls), and it’s delightful – not only for the science behind what we’re only now learning, but because, well, dogs and dog tales and dog facts and the occasional cat. Reading it’s like sitting on a bench in a busy dog park: oh, the stories you’ll hear!

By the way, don’t discount your own pooch; Goodavage says that family pets have been known to spontaneously alert for illness, so give Puppers a skritch and pay attention. She might be a muttly M.D. but even if not, read on. “Doctor Dogs” will leave you smiling.

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