Dirt Science 101

A study in Finland has found that kids who grow up with dogs and cats have fewer respiratory infections, coughs and runny noses … but significantly more flea bites and scratches.

The research concluded that dogs bring dirt and stuff into the house like germs, grime and Higgs boson — the so-called “Clod Particle,” which is the subatomic building block of mud and goose poop.

Experts say being around this filth makes children stronger, leading me to believe we should stop washing our kids and let them spend their formative years at the town dump or the dog pound instead.

Published in Pediatrics, the study showed that in their first year, children with dogs developed 31% fewer respiratory infections, 44% fewer ear infections and required 29% fewer prescriptions for antibiotics. Cat owners didn’t do quite as well, perhaps because cats tend to drag in dead mice and parakeets and hide them under the sofa.

Dr. Eija Bergroth of Kuopio University Hospital, who led the research team, said, “We speculated that maybe the dogs somehow can bring dirt or soil inside the house, and then the immune system is strengthened … or maybe it’s something about the animals themselves.”

This ground-breaking research inspired me to develop an entirely new technique to boost the immune system. After a day riding the subways and walking through Central Park, stepping on cigarette butts, pigeon poop and some unidentifiable sticky substance, I took off my shoes and put them on the table during dinner, and a battalion of New York City super-germs launched an assault on our household, first attacking the ravioli.

I believe this controlled experiment will:

a) strengthen my family’s immune system or

b) turn us into X-Men or

c) send us to the infectious diseases ward of Yale New Haven Hospital, where we will be promptly quarantined.

No matter what happens, I’m convinced there’s a Nobel Price in Dirt Science in my future.

Experts have long maintained that children exposed to dog and cat dander are healthier, while those who live in overly clean environments are prone to asthma and allergies because the child’s immune system isn’t challenged enough.

When I was growing up, our house was too clean. Maybe that’s why my nose starts running in March and doesn’t stop until November. My mother was such a fanatic that she made our mongrel Blackie wipe her paws before she came in, and her dog house was more sanitary than the ladies room at Nordstrom (not that I’ve ever been in there).

For years, I’ve been committed to studying the health benefits of dirt. As my senior project in earth science, I tried to capture some Higgs boson particles in my high school locker, where a moldy grilled cheese sandwich underwent nuclear fusion with a rotten hard-boiled egg, creating a new sustainable energy source after four months of putrefaction.

Sad to say, my research was hampered by closed minds. I was like Galileo, a victim of prejudice by the school janitor, my compulsive cleaner mother and the scientific community, who couldn’t understand how my experiments with filth benefited mankind.

However, I’ve been vindicated by the Finnish study … so send in the dogs and send in the cats. And let’s not discriminate against Canada geese and grilled cheese.

 

Joe Pisani may be reached at [email protected].

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