Puppy Love: Meet Milo, a Portuguese Water Dog with a nose for research

Milo and Dr. LOwned by Maciej Lesniak, MD, Director of Neurosurgical Oncology, the trained service dog frolicked through his first clinical study in 2013 at the University of Chicago. Researcher Kristen Jacobson, PhD, collared the lively puppy to help her determine the impact of canine encounters on 120 male inpatients.

Milo ate it up, reveling in the head-scratching and belly rubs.

The patients benefited, too, at least, some of them did. Spoiler alert: the 18- to 25-year-olds who met with Milo or another service dog and then underwent stress tests were calmer than subjects who saw a dog after the stress test or not at all. Jacobson tracked levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) in the men’s blood to determine the impact of human-dog bonding.

An Associate Professor of Psychiatry, Jacobson now plans to enlist Milo’s help again. She’s applied for an NIH grant to investigate the effect of pet-assisted therapy on children with physical, emotional and developmental disorders.

Milo, who accepts Old Mother Hubbard dog biscuits in lieu of a stipend, “is a sweetie,” she said.

Lesniak — who credits his shaggy, 2-year-old sidekick for paving the way for animal-assisted therapy in Adult Oncology — concurs that Milo is top dog. The neurosurgeon also believes that four-legged friends are a genuine tonic for the troops, especially for single and elderly patients who regard their pets as family.

“If my mother were in the hospital,” Lesniak deadpanned, “she would probably rather see her dog than me.”

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