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Is this study doggone wrong?

The latest scientific evidence is in and here are the recommendations the experts have for minimizing your risk of heart disease: Exercise regularly. Cut down on your sodium intake. Don’t smoke.

Get a dog.

That last one is based on a report published by the American Heart Association recently in the medical journal Circulation.

“Pet ownership, particularly dog ownership, is probably associated with a decreased risk of heart disease,” declared Glenn Levine, a professor with Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

The study of more than 5,200 adults indicated that dog owners are more physically active than non-owners.

Most of the benefits, the research concluded, came from the fact that people who own dogs have to either walk them regularly or live in really smelly houses.

The experts may be barking up the right tree.

But, as the former owner of a dog, I’m do have to question exactly how much healthful exercise he provided us. Because most of the walks we took with our Yorkie were like rush hour on a Los Angeles freeway. It was mostly stop and go. Or, more frustratingly, stop and no go.

The pace was approximately 15 yards an hour and consisted of:

Take two steps, stop and smell a leaf. Take two more steps, stop and lift a leg (his, not ours). Take another two steps, stop and lift the other leg. Take an additional two steps, stop and stare into space for no apparent reason. Plop down on the grass and wait for someone to pick him up and carry him home.

We probably could have gotten a lot more healthful exercise walking a tortoise.

Which is not say that dog didn’t provide physical fitness opportunities for us.

We did frequent knee bends cleaning spots on the living room carpet. Two or three times an hour one of us would jump up off the couch because he was barking at the back door, which we thought meant he wanted to go outside, but generally only meant he was warning us that there was a chipmunk or other dangerous animal on the deck.

And I’m sure our hearts got pumping pretty vigorously from playing toss and fetch, because he would neither toss nor fetch and we wound up doing both. His attitude seemed to be, “Why should I go get it? You’re the one who threw it. … You go get it.”

So I can’t say exactly how much benefit our circulatory systems received from having a dog.

All I really know for sure is that it did terrible thing to our hearts when he left us.

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