For years, I've been a huge fan of shelter dog adoption, because when you adopt from an animal shelter, you save a life. But what I didn't realize until recently is that when you adopt a dog, the life you save is your own.
There's plenty of scientific evidence to prove that dogs are good for human health. They reduce our blood pressure and raise our levels of oxytocin, the "cuddle hormone"; they boost cardiovascular health by taking us out for regular walks. Think of dogs as health coaches, motivating us to perform the heart-healthiest exercise known to man -- walking -- three times daily. Dogs also lift our mood and lower our stress; they alert to attacks of anaphylaxis and asthma; their exquisite sense of smell can detect cancer or dangerous dips in blood sugar.
But dogs offer another life-saving health benefit that's under-reported. They are medical sentinels, which is why I call them Medicine Dogs. When you share your life with a dog, you interface with a veterinarian on a regular basis. And right now, in the United States, veterinary medicine is ahead of human medicine. Which means that, if you have a dog and you take him or her for routine vet check-ups, you're exposing yourself to the most sophisticated health care options that currently exist, for man or beast -- options your MD might not even know about, yet. And that might just save your life. This is exactly what happened to me: My Medicine Dog saved my life by leading me to adult stem cell therapy.
In 2008, my pit bull Sam collapsed from advanced osteoarthritis at age 14. Sadly, many people would justify putting a lame, old dog to sleep due to diminished quality of life – but that's not my style, because I wouldn't want someone doing that to me. I wanted Sam to experience the feeling of walking tall and standing strong, even if only for a short time. Looking to restore his mobility, I learned about Vet-Stem, pioneers of veterinary stem cell regeneration therapy in San Diego.
The Vet-Stem procedure uses adult stem cells harvested from animals' own tissue. Stem cells are the body's master cells, and their purpose is to help repair damaged, inflamed tissue. Sam underwent a liposuction -- a tummy tuck, in plastic surgery parlance -- to harvest a tissue sample; that sample was overnighted on ice to San Diego for processing. Two mornings later, Fed Ex delivered three vials of Sam's stem cells, ready to be injected back into his body. Three hours after receiving IV and intra-joint injections of his own stem cells, Sam began aging backward -- which left me wondering why this simple, effective treatment was not available to human patients in America.
I'd been struggling with a health problem of my own: chronic inflammatory bowel disease. After witnessing Sam's astonishing recovery, I set out on a curious quest: to be treated like a dog by a doctor as competent as my vet! Finally, after four years of scouring the internet and traveling the world in search of stem cell therapy, I became the first American patient to be successfully cured of a perirectal fistula with adult stem cells derived from my own belly fat -- right here in America, at the California Stem Cell Treatment Center in Rancho Mirage. Since the procedure, I've never felt better in my life.
I could not have found healing without my best friends, the Medicine Dogs. Adult stem cells are a lot like dogs -- heroic K9s bravely doing the work of search-and-rescue. Think of these cells as microscopic Medicine Dogs, suspended in our body fat, ready and waiting to be deployed. Each one of us -- human, canine, equine -- has a reserve of Medicine Dogs in our own bodies. A liposuction is all that's needed to tap into this special healing force; a simple injection of the stem cells back into the body enables the cells to travel through the bloodstream, hunting down the areas that need an assist. It's not unlike unleashing a pack of invisible, healing hounds.
The regenerative properties of adult stem cells are astonishing -- as are the healing powers of dogs. I believe that canines and adult stem cells both belong to the species Medicine Dog. The four-footed workout partners I exercise with three times daily, the beloved best friends I cuddle and sleep with, are no less medicinal than the stem cells that saved my life. Let's not let healers just like them die by the millions at animal shelters. Let's get them into loving homes where they can do their work.