Everybody needs a Hank!
More: Everybody needs a Hank! An email emanated from my daughter's fourth grade teacher informing the parents that we all needed to set aside a substantial portion of our life's savings for the purchase of a unicorn. I stopped reading for a second and pondered that Mr. Z, my daughter's teacher, had finally lost it - all those years of wrangling elementary students had taken its ultimate toll. I trudged on through the email and learned that a writing exercise had been assigned that entailed providing the description of the perfect pet and why - now things made a little more sense. What fun! Knowing my daughter's vivid imagination, I truly expected something along the lines of a hippopotamus with eagle wings or a dolphin with beaver teeth. I was excited about seeing her after school and hearing what she had chosen. When I arrived home, I found my daughter snuggled on the floor with Hank. His head lying on her lap and his tail thumping mightily against the hardwood floor. He moaned lazily, rolling to his back. No one could resist rubbing that belly - and he knew it. He was a handsome black Labrador retriever that had joined our family over the past year. Unlike most Labradors, Hank had a lazy streak and enjoyed lounging - just as much as his distant canine cousins of the hound dog variety. He fit perfectly into our family - no chewed up shoes, no damaged baseboards, he was housebroken - and most of all, he adores my daughter. They have become quite inseparable. Over our evening meal, I asked my daughter about her day and if she had any interesting assignments. She beamed radiantly and without hesitation, and with great enthusiasm, apprised me of her newest undertaking. She was asked by Mr. Z. to write a paper. The paper is supposed to encompass the fanciful concept if you could pick any pet in the world, real or imagined, what would you choose and why. I sat back - ready for a real whooper of a creature - something only a fourth grader could conjure. But instead, my heart swelled and my eyes dampened as she spoke theses words to me, "Daddy, everybody needs a Hank!". Out of all the mythical and magical creatures available, from that elusive part of the brain called the mental workspace, my daughter chose good ol' Hank - our black lab. Even during man's early formation, we recognized the inherent benefit of the association with animals as pets. We found that the domestication of today's distant canine cousins, not only tamed them, but also us - in some sense of the word. The oldest known evidence of this bond was found in Israel, when a man's skeleton was unearthed with his hand resting on a six month old wolf cub. The human-animal-bond is certainly recognized as a dynamic relationship between man and animal resulting in a powerful symbiotic kinship. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and The National Institutes of Health document many health and psychological benefits resulting from human and pet interaction. Our four-legged friends have been shown clinically, in well-designed studies, to have a positive impact on our cardiovascular health. Association with pets not only can lower our blood pressure and heart rates but also lengthen our life in doing so. Pet owners tend to be more active which typically leads to a more sociable lifestyle and more human friends. Additional psychological benefits that pets provide, especially for children, are a resource for developing empathy and pets assuredly serve as a source of comfort for us all. I suppose no one could argue that pets are an immense part of our lives - lives that we are so fortunate to share. The human-animal bond was, once again, strengthened at my home when my daughter so emphatically proclaimed "Everybody needs a Hank!". It always amazes me and I often revel in the joy of love shared between a boy (or a girl) and his dog. The human-animal bond is a powerful condition - I live my life in awe of this mysterious force. As a veterinarian, I have dedicated my life to the health and well-being of my patients. Ironically, and without even knowing it, my patients have dedicated their lives to my health and well-being too. - Patrick McCrory, DVMVote