Anyone who has ever owned a dog knows the experience can have its drawbacks. Dogs of our acquaintance have been known to gobble food off counters, bark furiously at squirrels and letter carriers, barf on rugs, whine to be walked no matter the weather and require pricey visits to the veterinarian.

But science has found a definite upside. Owning a dog, it seems, can enhance your health. A survey of research covering nearly 4 million people in the journal Circulation reached the conclusion that on average, keeping a canine companion reduces the overall risk of death by 24% and the chance of dying from cardiovascular disease by nearly a third.

The experts at Circulation have some ideas to explain this phenomenon. “Several studies have shown that acquiring a dog perforce increases physical exercise,” notes an editorial. Both purebreds and mutts also tend to “reduce anxiety and loneliness, increase self-esteem and improve overall mood,” says Circulation, yielding “large and sustained improvements in mental health.”

It has long been known that dogs have evolved to gain the indulgence of humans, through adoring eyes, wagging tails and sheer enthusiasm. What our naive four-legged friends do not realize is that we get the better of the deal. They deter burglars, remove messes from the kitchen floor, provide warmth on winter nights and exhibit boundless faith in our fallible selves. All we have to do is provide for their every need.

If yours is not one of the 48 million American homes equipped with these mobile therapeutic devices, you can always visit the nearest animal shelter. You can improve a dog’s life while you’re saving your own.

Maybe adding a four-legged member to your household will add days to your life. It will certainly add life to your days.

Chicago Tribune

Meet new U.N. council members

Gather round and give a pat on the back to the newest members of the planet’s panel for judging the human rights records of nations.

First up among the latest crop of countries on the 47-member Human Rights Council in Geneva: Venezuela. That is where President Nicolas Maduro has orchestrated, in the words of Freedom House, a “brazen crackdown on the political opposition, employing frequent arrests, torture and temporary disappearances to quash dissent.”

Next newbie: Mauritania. That is where up to 20% of the population, and up to half of the minority Haratine ethnic group, is enslaved. The government, reports Freedom House, “continues to arrest antislavery and antidiscrimination activists.” Certain forms of blasphemy are punishable by death.

Next: Libya. Attempts to install a unity government after the removal of Moammar Khadafy have failed, leaving militias to compete for control. Per Human Rights Watch, they “harass and persecute civilians with impunity, and carry out arbitrary detention, torture, unlawful killings, indiscriminate attacks, disappearances, seizure of property and forced displacement.”

Last, welcome Sudan, where the authoritarian president deposed in a coup earlier this year suffocated all who challenged his power.

New York Daily News