MICHIGAN CITY – In a Legacy Center filled with health care workers providing flu shots and vaccinations, vendors offering nutrititious food samples, and professionals discussing Medicare and other health-related issues, a little dog stole the show.

Not that Chance is any ordinary dog — he's even got his own business cards.

The certified therapy dog was at the Queen Of All Saints Health Fair with Cathy Albrecht, educational director for the Paws for Kids program at La Porte-based T.A.S.K. (Therapy Animals Supporting Kids).

"Chance is a long-coated, tri-color Chihuahua who is a service and therapy dog," Albrecht said. "He comes from Pet Partners in Portland, Oregon, and he has $2 million in liability insurance. He's been working since he was a year old, and he's now 7."

His latest gig is working with autistic children through a program at Purdue Northwest.

Albrecht explained therapy dogs, and any pet really, do more than keep you company.

"If you have a pet, studies show you will live five years long. And if you volunteer, you will live five years longer. So I've got an extra 10 years already," she said.

Parents and kids couldn't resist stopping by to pet the little guy, and offer him treats, as Albrecht discussed the therapy program and how to avoid getting bitten by a dog.

Some tips included not petting a dog who is not with their owner, not petting service dogs or other "working" animals, avoiding sick or injured dogs, avoiding dogs that seem anxious or are growling or barking, and not petting a dog while it's playing with a toy or eating.

While Chance was drawing a crowd downstairs, Dr. Brian Dickover was upstairs discussing healthy sleep, one of several presentations by local health professionals.

He mentioned a few things that can lead to poor sleep, including being overweight.

"Weight loss helps you sleep," Dickover said. "When you were younger, you were probably thinner and you didn't snore. If you lose some of that weight, the snoring will stop and the sleep apnea might also stop.

"And even if it doesn't, you should still lose weight because it's healthier."

He said improved sleep makes you less sleepy so you "think better" during the day. It also cuts the risk of diabetes, stroke and heart attack.

Dickover said the best advice is to only use your bed for "the three 'S's – sleep, sex and sickness."

Many people like to read or watch TV before going to sleep, he said, "but then they can't fall asleep. Your mind starts to equate the bed with doing other things, it tells you the bed is not for sleep, but for everything else."

He also said caffeine and having pets in bed are not good for achieving restful sleep.

"You need to set yourself up for sleep success, but all those other things are setting you up to fail. You need some insight into yourself. Everyone has rituals, and if they help you sleep, do it. But usually those things do not help you sleep."

Dickover also discussed the two types of insomnia – onset insomnia, when you can't fall asleep; and maintenance insomnia, when you can't stay asleep.

He said many people as they get older, and retire, do not sleep as well.

Adults should get 7 1/2 hours of sleep a night, he said. "You can sleep less if you want, but does it disrupt your life? Sleep in older years can be fitful, unharmonious and dissatisfying, but it's still important."

Other presenters on Saturday included Amy O'Donnell on "SoulCore Prayer and Stretching"; Dr. Raul Enad on "Healing Body, Mind and Soul"; Renetta Pavot on "Navigating Medicare"; and Anne Klute on "Healthy Homes."

Booths at the health fair included HealthLinc, Indiana Dunes State Park, Franciscan Health, Pavot and Associates, Nature's Cupboard, Pampered Chef, Planet Fitness and Walgreen's.

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