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The therapy dogs at Walter Reed are not magic. (OK, maybe a little bit.)

When you're going through something really hard, sometimes what you need is a warm, fuzzy, adorable distraction.

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The magic science is compelling. Therapy dogs really do seem to help sick and injured people recover.

Therapy dogs like those at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in the above video by Military Health aren't random dogs from a local shelter. These are highly trained, certified dogs with handlers. Therapy and emotional support dogs have been shown to help veterans break out of their emotional shells, leading to more productive therapy sessions and better relationships with loved ones.

More research is needed into how exactly therapy dogs help mitigate the problems that wounded veterans experience, but we've known for a very long time that having pets — especially dogs — grants some pretty serious health benefits.


Why do dogs make us feel good?

One big reason: They stimulate our brains to create oxytocin.

Quick neurochemistry lesson:

Oxytocin is a hormone that the brain excretes during certain social interactions. It does a few neat magic tricks on the mind and the body. Scientists have found that oxytocin:

  • helps us bond with our friends, romantic partners, and family (especially children),
  • prompts our bodies to heal themselves,
  • helps us trust each other, and
  • reduces anxiety, fear, and stress.

How awesome is all that?

This awesome:

Do you think a dog can have an impact on happiness?

Go pet your dog and then tell me. If you don't have a dog, pet someone else's dog. (But always ask first.)

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True

When Jonathan Irons was 16, he was put on trial for burglary and assault with a weapon. According to CBS Sports, Irons was tried as adult, and an all-white jury found him guilty—despite there being no witnesses, no fingerprints, no footprints, and no DNA proving his guilt.

Irons began his 50-year sentence in a Missouri state prison in 1998. Now, 22 years later, he's a free man, largely thanks to the tireless efforts of a WNBA superstar.

Maya Moore is arguably the most decorated professional women's basketball player in the U.S. A first-round draft pick in 2011, she's played for the Minnesota Lynx, where she became a six-time WNBA All-Star, a five-time All-WNBA First Team player, a four-time WNBA champion, and the WNBA Most Valuable Player in 2014.

But before the 2019 season, in the peak of her career, Moore decided to take the year off for a different kind of court battle—one that had wrongfully convicted a young man and doomed him to spend most of his life behind bars. Her decision rocked her sport, and there was no guarantee that sacrificing an entire season to fight for criminal justice reform would bear any fruit.

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