Albuquerque Journal

The verdict is in

Pets therapeuti­c friends in court, home

- JUDGE FOR YOURSELF Judge Cindy Leos Judge Cindy Leos is a judge of the 2nd Judicial District Court. Opinions expressed here are solely those of the judge individual­ly and not those of the court.

In my mind, after a hard day you cannot beat coming home to a bundle of fur reacting like you are the most important person in the world. It’s hard to be unhappy when a cute little life thinks you are the sun, the moon and all the stars. That type of unconditio­nal love can only be found in a dog.

Though us dog owners have probably subconscio­usly always known this, research is showing that petting a dog you are familiar with is highly therapeuti­c. Petting a dog reduces stress, relaxes muscle tension and lowers your heart rate and your blood pressure.

Veterans with PTSD who have a dog report a marked decrease in PTSD symptoms, and almost half of these veterans reduce the medication they take for that condition.

Dog ownership actually does make you happier. Again, research has shown dog owners are much less likely to be depressed than non-dog owners.

Owning a dog also makes you more attractive. In fact, there are studies that have shown a person who is out and about with a dog is much more likely to attract a love interest than an equally attractive person who is without a dog. On social media dating websites, a person who poses with their dog is much more likely to get the eagerly anticipate­d “right swipe” than people who do not have dogs in their profile picture.

Dogs just make you feel better. That’s why many courts, including the Second Judicial District Court, use courthouse dogs to help people. These courthouse dogs are trained to sit quietly with a person, including child witnesses, who may be feeling a lot of anxiety while they are testifying.

There is science behind the reason we find dogs cute. Dog’s facial expression­s have evolved to mimic an expression that humans make when they are sad. Expression­s that dogs make using their eyebrows cause humans to want to protect and love them. Dogs with expressive eyebrows are much more likely to be adopted from a shelter than dogs with less expressive eyebrows — in other words, dogs should avoid Botox.

I have three incredible dogs, one a pit bull I adopted from the city of Albuquerqu­e Animal Welfare Department’s Lucky Paws five years ago. The other two were also adopted, one from Animal Welfare and one from a local rescue organizati­on. Contrary to myths about the ferocity of the pit bull breed, our pit bull is sweet, loyal, smart, cuddly, playful and funny. She is also convinced she is tiny — she crawls into my lap nightly to take a snooze, snore loudly and engage in exciting paw-twitching dreams. There are dozens and dozens of pit bulls and other delightful breeds, including the mutt breed, living in our animal shelters right now.

Now that I have, hopefully, convinced you that dogs are a miracle, I am taking this opportunit­y to bring attention to all the animals — not just dogs, but many cats, birds, rabbits and chickens, to name a few — just waiting at the shelters and rescue facilities in our community for someone to take them to their forever home. They are not “throwaway” animals. They are not animals that have something wrong with them. They are not any less worthy of compassion and a loving home than an animal that you may pay a lot of money for. They are perfect, and they are waiting for you. Your heart and soul will thank you for it.

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