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Walking the dog can be hazardous, but at least it’s legal

March 18, 2019

I was surprised to recently discover the number of Internet articles which focus on the dangers of pet ownership for seniors. I must admit that the information shared was a real eye-opener.

I never considered having a pet to be potentially hazardous for folks my age. But once it dawned on me that I have experienced every pet-related accident described in the articles, the thought did cross my mind that my dog’s primary goal in life is to kill me.

One article pointed out that pets sleeping on the bedroom floor at night are a problem for seniors. The Mayo Clinic Sleep Disorders Center found that 53 percent of people are awakened at least once per night by their sleeping pet.

It can be something as innocuous as the pet farting after consuming a leftover chili dog earlier that evening, or as terrifying as howling like a banshee during a dog nightmare.

Or let’s say a senior lets his dog, cat, rabbit, and entire family of 110 gerbils sleep on the bedroom floor and then he gets up in the dark at night to walk to the bathroom. Well, the potential consequences of that scenario are simply too frightening to imagine.

And pet-caused falls in the home are not limited to the bedroom. According to a Center for Disease Control study, “over 60 percent of falls involving dogs occur inside the house or nearby. 85 percent of cat-related falls happen indoors.” Even tripping over pet items like toys left lying around causes nearly 10 percent of falls.

It’s easy to see why people are tripping over cats since they like to curl around feet for—what I now suspect—that very purpose. Plus, my wife once had a Siamese cat that I’m quite certain was plotting my demise by mapping my daily movements then selecting prime spots to lie in ambush and trip me.

It’s no surprise that the greatest area of concern for senior pet owners is walking the dog on a leash. The variety of things that can go wrong is endless even if a dog is well trained — which mine isn’t.

Due to her size and lack of training, my dog pulls constantly on the leash. It’s so bad that after several years of dog walks my right arm is now several inches longer than the left which makes purchasing long-sleeved shirts that fit a real challenge.

According to an article in the medical journal JAMA Surgery, “... from 2004 to 2017, there were more than 32,000 emergency room cases of fractures associated with walking leashed dogs, especially among people aged 65 and older.”

The other side of the coin is owning pets can motivate one to exercise. A Canadian study found that seniors with dogs walk almost twice as much each week (300 minutes) compared to seniors without dogs (168 minutes). So, what to do?

If you opt to walk your dog despite the warnings, I suggest that you first sit down with your dog and have a serious talk. I have done this with my dog on a variety of issues. She appears to pay attention and is a very good listener, especially if I incorporate a subliminal strategy by sneaking the word “treat” several times into the flow of the conversation.

In clear and simple language explain to your dog that if she continues to pull on the leash, lounge on the floor at your feet, or leave squeaky balls lying around the house, you will ship her off to Iran. Such a tough-love threat is guaranteed to scare her straight in a hurry.

In 2010, dogs were proclaimed “unclean” by ruling Iranian clerics and could no longer be kept as pets. Yet, many Iranians persisted in keeping their dogs.

It’s true that dogs have some “unclean” traits. I know a popular dog-walking trail where if Iranians wanted to declare a jihad on the area and clean up the poop, I would support them.

“Friendship with dogs is a blind imitation of the West,” Grand Ayatollah Shirazi said in an Iranian paper. He went so far as to say that Americans treat their dogs better than they treat other humans.

That’s ridiculous. I certainly don’t ... oops, got to go. It’s time for my dog’s bubble bath, aromatherapy, and blueberry facial appointment.

I’m Back. Now, where was I? Oh, yeah, Tehran’s chief of police Hossein Rahimi claimed that walking dogs in public “creates fear and anxiety” among Iranian citizens. Based on the articles I just read, he must be talking about Iranian SENIOR citizens walking dogs and getting their leashes all tangled up in pedestrians’ burkas.

Then ABC News online ran this shocking headline just last January: “Iran bans dogs from riding in cars and public walks in Tehran.”

Hold it right there. Now Iran has crossed the red line. Banning people from walking dogs in public is bad enough, but banning dogs from riding in cars with their head out the window relishing the orgasmic barrage of smells is cruel and unusual punishment.

Chief of Police Rahimi went on to proclaim that dog owners who violate the rule “shall be dealt with severely.”

Well, if I lived in Iran, I would gladly take my 50 lashes like a man rather than deny my dog one of its greatest pleasures — if she promised not to pull on the leash anymore.

Mike Murphy of Pocatello is an award-winning columnist whose articles are syndicated by Senior Wire. He recently published a book titled “Tortoise Crossing – Expect Long Delays,” which is a collection of 100 of his favorite columns. It is available on Amazon.com.