Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Therapy Dogs - More Than Man's Best Friend

There is a lovely lady I know who is writing a book about her dog, McDuff. McDuff was friendly to everyone and had a keen sense of understanding around people with disabilities. My friend's book will be inspiring, I'm sure, and it made me think about dogs like McDuff and their owners who spend their spare time volunteering in nursing homes, hospitals, and library reading programs.

Therapy dogs come in all shapes and sizes. They have different talents and areas were they are best suited to help those in need. Some people prefer to call them Visiting dogs, because the word therapy has such a narrow definition in today's world.

Whatever title you give them, these animals bring comfort, smiles, and their own brand of healing to the people they visit. It may be by listening attentively while a child with dyslexia practices reading out loud. Or spending time in a close cuddle with the resident of a nursing home who so badly needs loving contact. Therapy dogs programs are available in some hospitals on the AIDS and cardiac care wards where they share moments of cheer and friendship.
Researchers at UCLA Medical Center, Los Angeles, have reported that a short bedside visit with a therapy animal can ease anxiety levels by 24% in heart patients. That's much better than the 10% drop seen when the patient is visited by a human volunteer.

Results of the study were presented at the American Heart Association's Annual Scientific Sessions in Dallas, Tx.The study was funded by the Pet Care Trust Foundation, a non-profit organization which promotes human-animal interaction and bonding.

Why take animals into facilities with the sick, injured, and elderly?
Visits from loving animals can help people feel less lonely, less depressed and can provide a welcome change from routine. In nursing homes, especially, the residents become more responsive during and after the visits. The dogs offer entertainment and distraction from pain.

It's evident on the faces of the ones being visited that the dogs are a source of joy. All creatures, especially mammals, need connection and interaction with others to thrive. The hospitalized and disabled often go lacking for this kind of contact. It's heartwarming to see how all of the creatures on Earth can help each other, live in harmony, symbiotically filling the needs of the other, healing the sick in the process.

If you know of someone in need of these visits or would like to get your dog buddy involved visit these websites for information.


thewishfulwriter said...

I use to take Rosie to do "dog therapy" and it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. The connection that exists between the dogs and the people they are visiting is amazing.

There was this elderly man who we visited. He had tubes coming out of everywhere. He desperately wanted to hold Rosie. I was worried at first because Rosie jumps and moves around a lot. I was worried that she'd tear a tube out. But he wanted to hold her so badly, I couldn't say no.

I put her on his lap and she didn't move a muscle. She just lokoed at him and kissed me - and stayed very very still. She never stays still!

Great post :) Thanks for reminding me how fun that was. We might have to talk about getting involved again!

Lisa McGlaun said...

Wow. What an experience. Thanks for sharing that.The best thing we can do is get out of our own daily grind and share something special with someone who needs it. Rosie sounds like a great do. I've wondered if my dog might be a good match for this kind of thing but he is a bulky,kind of intimadating Australian Blue Heeler. He's very friendly once you get past his looks.

Kali said...

Glad to be back, Lisa. I am so happy you posted this! I don't mean to brag about my boy but my Wheatan Terrier would make the perfect therapy dog! He is the cutest and the kindest. I am going to check out the links you posted!

Lisa McGlaun said...

Glad your back, too, Kali.You should post a picture of your dog. I'd love to see him.

NeoAuteur said...

It's great that you mention this. Dogs are capable of doing much more than guarding homes.

Lisa McGlaun said...


They are very intuitive creatures and like you said, capable of much more than we give them credit for.

Thanks for the comment,

La delirante said...

When I was feeling down because I didn't have my documents yet so I could start looking for a job here, my cats ( I had two back then) would cheer me up :) Very interesting post I learned a lot with it.

Lisa McGlaun said...

Good to see you Wen,

I love my animals too. There were times in my life when my orange and white tabby cat was most definately my best and most trusted friend. I had to have him put down when he was 19 years old. That was a very sad day.