Seniors living in homes, group care homes, hospitals and hospice facilities, will brighten up when a pet enters! Smiles show up on faces that once appeared sullen, in pain or distraught. Spirits are uplifted, and lighter conversations begin, perhaps reminiscing about their own pets. Petting and talking to a animal can lower blood pressure and change a sad mood.
Therapy pet requirements
Not just any animal will do. Training is required for each therapy animal. An eight-hour course is required before an animal and handler can become qualified to make visits. Interviews, behavioral tests, orientation and obedience training is administered before a dog can become registered by Therapy Dogs, Inc. This organization also provides support and liability insurance for members.
Hospitals and hospices have therapy pet programs
Seven Banner Health Medical Centers in and around Phoenix, Arizona (i.e. Thunder Dogs Therapy Team at Banner Thunderbird Hospital), and organizations (i.e. Hospice of the Valley’s Pet Connections) provide free pet therapy visits for patients, and gladly welcome people who come forward to volunteer their time and their pet for the programs. Anyone interested in volunteering may contact Hospice of the Valley’s Katie Howland at 602 530-6941, or by email at email@example.com.
What animals are best for therapy?
It’s interesting to learn that a variety of animals are used for therapy. Wikipedia states that people in general, and children especially, benefit from just about any animal (i.e. horses, dolphins, even elephants!). Seniors, however, who are homebound, hospitalized, in a group care home or hospice facility, manage best with dogs, cats, rabbits and birds.
Nudges, nuzzles and purrs can do wonders for patients! Volunteer animals need not be pedigreed, or possess any special abilities except to love humans and have a gentle nature.. The unconditional love and affection factor is key.
I witnessed the delight and happiness experienced by Mom and her care home neighbors at Max’s Place, a Red Door Care Home, this past year. Each time my sister brought her cute little Maltese “Sugar Pie” to visit, the residents were instantly enlightened!
Jennifer Anne Hart tells us in her article entitled The Power of Pet Therapy, “An animal is a great way to take the focus off the stressful occurrences of our everyday lives, and gives us the feeling of unconditional acceptance. You can be yourself. They love you whether you’re rich or poor, and they don’t care what sex or color you are. We can all learn a great deal about the goodness that is naturally in the hearts of animals. Perhaps this is partially why they are so therapeutic.”
Volunteers and pets deserve appreciation for their efforts
To Sam, Sundance, Stormy, Cali, Riley, Patina, Gunner, Precious, Raven, Sparky, Skylar, Sugar Pie…to all therapy pets and their volunteers like Debbie, thank you!
“Therapy dogs nurse patients one nuzzle at a time,” Maura J. Halpern, Health Section, The Peoria (Arizona) Republic, page 17, March 29, 2009.