Puppy Love

For empty nesters Ron and Dee Schwartz, life hasn't been the same since the arrival of their newest family member, Chewy. In fact, you might say the couple has been struck by a case of puppy love.

"Wherever we go, the dog goes with us," says Ron. "The dog always has the ability to wag that tail at you, kiss you all over the face, as if to say, 'In the scheme of things Dad, nothing you've got is that important. No problem you have is that important.'"

You don't have to go too far in their neighborhood to find some of Chewy's friends.

"[The dogs] are the children that are out of the house," says Ron. "With all the craziness we may have had with our children over the years, you want to continue with some kind of craziness."

Arthur Davis says he can do anything he wants with his dog.

"We've had some tragedy in our life and he's great therapy."

Ron says his dog has mellowed him.

"My disposition today is calm and passive," says Ron. "I'm a runner and go-and-doer, and quick talker, but I very rarely lose my temper, anymore."

Dee says her husband and Chewy are partners in crime.

"By 9 o'clock, they've gone to maybe 13 stores," says Dee. "They've gotten the coffee. They hang out together. They are buddies."

Pet shop owner Lisa Holland says dog supplies are her best selling products. Her shop even has a special bakery for the dogs.

Dog groomer Bobbi Williams detects a lot of animal magnetism among her clients. "I say the dogs pick out the people and their personalities match," says Williams.

The dogs are a welcome form of therapy for some seniors. Dotti Carter says her dog gives her a reason to get out of bed. "When you get up with the aches and pains and this thing loves you to death, you forget all about your aches and pains," she explains.

In the Schwartz household, what goes around comes around.

"Chewy, right before bedtime, has a dish of premium quality light vanilla ice cream fed by spoon by my wife," says Ron.

Linda Hines, president of the Delta Society, an organization that has studied the benefits of human-animal relationships for 25 year, told The Early Show that pets have health benefits for seniors.

She says the dogs can serve as seeing-eye dogs, animals for home security and animals for assisted therapy.

Hines says pet therapy rests on the theory that people need the gentle contact of an affectionate animal. People who have lonely lives, who are shut-ins or live in nursing homes, who are recovering from injury or tragedy, need that touch more than the average person. Animal-assisted therapy lightens the mood of the person, according to Hines. It takes them away from their troubles for a few minutes.

She says studies have proven that stroking a dog or cat can alleviate stress and lower blood pressure. Seniors who own dogs go to the doctor less often than those who do not.

When choosing a dog, Hines says it is important the animal has the right temperament and intelligence to match its owner. There are no breed restrictions on dogs, the most important thing is that the dog has a gentle disposition, obeys commands and is good with people. And, Hines says, it's not just a dog and cat world. All kinds of domesticated animals can be beneficial.