Germs: They do a body good. Finally, a study has surfaced espousing the value of good old dirt and grime and yes, even bacteria.
And apparently, dirt is even good for kids, especially when carried into the house by that "nasty ol' dog," if researchers theories are correct.
It's sad, but it happens — the new, precious, squeaky-clean baby arrives and the dog starts getting squeezed out of the picture.
If lucky, the dog only has to endure more baths than normal, but the less lucky find themselves looking forlorn through the back window, watching the family inside the house that used to be theirs too.
There has for decades been a school of thought that children needed to be sheltered from germy animals or they might get sick or even develop allergies and other long-term issues.
However, gaining widespread attention this week, a soon-to-be released article in the Journal of Pediatrics just might vindicate back-porch pooches.
Essentially, a team of Finnish researchers studied babies over the course of their first year and found that those living in households with pets had lower incidents of infection and in general showed higher resilience when they did become sick.
Not only was there a marked difference for kids in homes with pets, but the more contact they had with the animals, the better their immunity seemed to be and even more, there was a noticeable difference in kids that lived around dogs, particularly dogs that spent significant time outside.
While the reason was not scientifically explained in the study, researchers have said they have a theory and it's pretty simple.
Dogs are just a tad dirtier than cats and therefore, more likely to carry the icky stuff into the house on their paws and fur.
The information is consistent with other studies in recent years, which lean toward exposure to indoor pets in the early years as helpful to reducing allergies and sensitivities later in life.
A 2010 article in the Journal of Pediatrics looked at the link between child eczema and pets and a team of doctors concluded that while there's still much work to be done on the topic, it's probably not fair to blame the dog. In fact, they noted researchers have found exposure to pets in the early years could actually protect a child from developing eczema at rates of 20-30 percent.
It almost seems silly that a study is needed to show that kids need animals, but hey, if it takes science to prove it then so be it.
The dogs and kids already have it all figured out anyway — they know they are made for each other.
Heck, they even share the same interests.
They both like squeaky toys and stuffed animals, they are close to the ground, have vacuum tendencies when they encounter things on the carpet, and they could care less about dirt — in fact they kind of seem to like it.
Turn your back for second, and Fido and Junior will be licking the same rawhide or dipping their noses in the same water dish.
Come to think of it, choking hazards notwithstanding, maybe it's a partial explanation for why little kids have to touch and taste everything, something well-intentioned parents keep interfering with even as the list of conditions and ailments out there seems to grow daily.
Who knows, future studies may even find that nature has hard-wired kids without an ick-meter for the purpose of helping them build immunity.
Actually, when you look at it like that, perhaps an equally appropriate study would be to measure how living in a home with a child impacts a dog's health.
Sharna Johnson is a writer who is always searching for ponies. You can reach her at: firstname.lastname@example.org or on the web at: