ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Combating Myths About Seasonal Allergies
Herbal Remedy Could Halt Peanut Allergy
Climate Change Could Sting Allergy, Asthma Sufferers
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Animals Respond to Acupuncture's Healing Touch
Acupuncture May Not Help Hot Flashes
Naprapathy: A Hands-On Approach to Pain Management
ANIMAL CARE
Beware of Dog Bites
Animals Respond to Acupuncture's Healing Touch
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
BONES & JOINTS
Rheumatoid Arthritis Hits Women Harder
Most Kids With Type 1 Diabetes Lack Vitamin D
Bone Density Predicts Chances of Breast Cancer
CANCER
Broccoli May Help Battle Breast Cancer
Herb May Counter Liver Damage From Chemo
Seaweed May Help Treat Lymphoma
CAREGIVING
Exercise During Pregnancy May Help Baby
Most Women Struggle With Rising Health Care Costs
Study of Everest Climbers Questions Oxygen Use
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Vitamins Do Older Women Little Good
Migraines in Pregnancy Boost Vascular Risks
An Apple a Day May Help Keep Heart Disease Away
COSMETIC
Contact Lenses Boost Kids' Self-Image
Gum Chewing May Cut Craving for Snacks
Get Sugared!.... Its a sweet choice for hair removal
DENTAL, ORAL
Gum Disease May Reactivate AIDS Virus
Scientists Find Gene for Tooth Enamel
Amino Acid May Be Key to Strong Teeth
DIABETES
Exercise Protects Black Women From Type 2 Diabetes
Arthritis Hits More Than Half of Diabetics
Patients' Photos Help Boost Radiologists' Accuracy
DIET, NUTRITION
'Soda Tax' Wins Health Experts' Support
More Calcium And Dairy Products in Childhood Could Mean Longer Life
Lose Weight, Sleep Apnea May Improve
DISABILITIES
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Artificial Light Linked to Prostate Cancer Risk
Heavy Traffic Can Be Heartbreaking
Common Pesticide Tied to Development Delays in Kids
EYE CARE, VISION
Green Tea May Ward Off Eye Disease
Diabetic Eye Disease Rates Soaring
Americans Losing Sight of Eye Health
FITNESS
Exercise Cuts Lung Cancer Risk in Ex-Smokers by 45%
Exercise Key Player in Knee Replacement Recovery
Vigorous Exercise Can Cut Breast Cancer Risk
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Bowel Prep Harder on Women Than Men
New Yogurt May Ease Stomach Ulcers
Traditional Nonsurgical GERD Treatments Not Impressive
GENERAL HEALTH
Air Pollution May Raise Blood Pressure
Stressed and Exhausted: An Introduction to Adrenal Fatigue
Food and Water Supply Poisoned by Perchlorate
HEAD & NECK
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Study Suggests Link Between Cell Phones and Brain Tumors
Airport Full Body Scanners Pose No Health Threat: Experts
Using Light Therapy to Silence Harmful Brain Activity
HEARING
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Soy Protein Doesn't Lower Cholesterol
Boosting Vitamin D Can Do a Heart Good
Ingredient in Dark Chocolate Could Guard Against Stroke
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
More Medicinal Uses for Pomegranate
Swine Flu Loves a Crowd
Chinese 'Devil Dung' Plant Could Be a Swine Flu Fighter
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Exercise in Adolescence May Cut Risk of Deadly Brain Tumor
Obese Children More Likely to Suffer Lower Body Injuries
Health Tip: Back Pain in Children
MEN'S HEALTH
Countdown to Hair Loss
Whole Grains, Bran May Fight Hypertension in Men
Physical Activity May Prolong Survival After Colon Cancer
MENTAL HEALTH
The Acne Drug Accutane More Than Doubles Depression Risk
The Unmedicated Mind
Breast-Fed Baby May Mean Better Behaved Child
PAIN
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Prenatal Stress May Boost Baby's Asthma Risk
Exercise As Well As Acupuncture, May Ease Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
Breast-Feeding Benefits Moms and Babies
SENIORS
15-Point Test Gauges Alzheimer's Risk
Save Your Aging Brain, Try Surfing The Web
Fitness Fades Fast After 45
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Sleeping Could Help Women Lose The Baby Fat
Moderate Aerobics May Ease Insomnia Symptoms
Exercising Throat Muscles May Relieve Sleep Apnea
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Heal Your LifeŽ Tips for Living Well
Varicose Veins May Mask Larger Problem
Sleeping Could Help Women Lose The Baby Fat
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'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue

Dogs perform lifesaving jobs every day. They sniff out bombs, locate lost children and even find people buried by avalanches.

Now another type of specially trained working dog has emerged in recent years. Comfort dogs come to the emotional rescue of people who are suffering in the aftermath of disasters or battling the difficulties of daily life.

Their job is deceptively simple: to get people to open up and talk about what happened.

Amy Rideout, president of HOPE Animal-Assisted Crisis Response, a national organization with more than 100 certified dog-handler teams, said engaging in a discussion about an experience is healing and helps a person to overcome a traumatic event.

There are other health benefits the pooches provide. Research has shown the simple act of petting a dog helps to lower blood pressure, lift spirits and reduce stress.

"There are not too many things that we can do that can make an instantaneous impact on somebody, so this is special work," she said.

To become certified with HOPE, dog-handler teams must go through 40 hours of basic training, then tackle specialized coursework such as learning crisis intervention skills and the FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) incident command system, as well as participating in mock disaster drills. Dogs are painstakingly desensitized to sights, sounds and smells typically encountered during a disaster. And all teams are recertified yearly.

Members of HOPE have responded to some of the decade's worst tragedies, including Hurricane Katrina and the Virginia Tech school shootings.

After 9/11, Rideout and her hound, Janie, were sent to a family assistance center in New York City to support families who had lost a loved one. But surprisingly, she said, it was the stressed-out emergency responders who seemed to need her and Janie the most.

"Those were the folks who would come up to Janie and give her a big bear hug and say, 'Thank you. I needed that before I went back to work today,'" she recalled.

Not all comfort dogs are used to help people emotionally cope after disaster strikes.

Meet Fuerst. Every weekday morning around 9 a.m., Pastor Tim Engel drives his faithful canine partner to work at Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Portage, Ind.

Fuerst is one of nearly 30 Golden Retrievers permanently placed at churches throughout Indiana and Illinois by Lutheran Church Charities, a national ministry.

"His job is to help open up opportunities for conversations and Christian ministry that otherwise wouldn't happen," explained Engel.

The retriever has been at Holy Cross for a little more than a year now.

Fuerst -- the German word for prince -- goes everywhere with pastor Engel, from visiting nursing homes and emergency hospital rooms to attending Sunday service.

"Not everybody sees the value of [Fuerst] like I do," he admits. "But the majority of the members look forward to seeing him on Sunday morning and they understand his function in our church."

Like others in the K9 Parish Comfort Dog Ministry, Fuerst has his own business card. On the front are his picture and the church's phone number; on the back is his job description. The business cards are frequently handed out in the community, he said.

On occasion, people have phoned the church to schedule a private meeting with Fuerst -- and only Fuerst.

Engel laughs recalling some of those requests but insists that he isn't offended.

"If the dog provides comfort for people and is something that makes them feel more at ease then the dog is doing his job," he said.

SOURCES: Amy Rideout, president, HOPE Animal-Assisted Crisis Response; Timothy Engel, pastor, Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Portage, Ind.

Last Updated: March 18, 2010