Pet Therapy

Hand caressing dog's headImagine that your heart is racing wild and that your blood pressure is out of sight. You feel frustrated and nauseous from the things that have gone wrong through the day. Then, your dog climbs up on the couch beside you and lays his head against your shoulder, or your kitten jumps upon your lap and you begin to rub her head as she peacefully drops to sleep as you hold her close. Even the thought of this scenario may begin to slow your racing heart and bring your blood pressure down. This little mental exercise is not really hypothetical at all, it is real! Animals are natural therapists. Their love and affection gives us a feeling of well-being that is so often missed in today’s rat-race of a world, but their power to enhance our health is a phenomenon that is virtually as old as man. Their love and affection gives us benefits which our psyche really needs because it is important to feel needed and loved. Our animals give us that! There is a heightened sense of safety and security to have them around. In the case of a dog, their hearing is so well developed that they are the first to know, if someone comes around —and they let you know! They give us a sense of family, they are very sensitive to our moods and, the good Lord knows, encourage us to exercise! A little personal note: If my wife is angry at me over one of my many down-fallings and raises her voice to me, Shea, our golden retriever / yellow lab mixture, takes the blame. She immediate tries to reconcile the situation by sitting and handing my wife her paw! Generally the situation is defused. I call her my sermon-on-the mount doggie. ‘Blessed are the meek, etc.’ This dog simply wants peace in the family and will accept the sin in order to get that peace.

According to Jennifer Christiansen,  a writer and Yahoo contributor, Animal assisted therapy has been around for literally thousands of years! The love that man-kind has for animals is well documented by virtue of the hand of our ancient cousins! Cave drawings have been found showing people sitting around campfires with their wolves, their dogs of the day!  In more modern times, the first known account of animals being used for therapy in a hospital setting was in Gheel, Belgium all the way back in the 9th century. The animals were included in therapy so that people with disabilities could learn to care for farm animals in order to earn their daily living. In 1792, animals were used therapeutically at the York Retreat in England. This program was started by the Quakers and this was one of the first places where the insane were treated humanely. It used gardening, courtyard exercise, and caring for animals such as birds and rabbits as part of a therapy program. Christiansen further makes note that Florence Nightingale has been credited with being a pioneer of animal-companion therapy as an aspect of health restoration. In her notes on Nursing, she recommends “a small pet animal” as an “excellent companion for the sick.” As the owner of a cherished pet owl, she also stated, “A pet bird in a cage is sometimes the only pleasure of and invalid confined for many years to the same room.”

So! Love your pets and hold them close! You can count on their love! As you take care of them, they will take care of you in more ways than you have imagined!

-Tony


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