It has been proven that those patients staying in hospitals who got visits from either their own pets or from some agency pets were generally more open to medical treatment and healthy feeding. Animals give patients the idea that life is worth living, be it only for them to be able to take care of their beloved companions. Those that are most receptive to pet therapy are children and senior patients. Due to such loyal animal friends, such patients are likely to get better sooner than under normal conditions. Pets bring joy, amusement, unconditional acceptance, and loyalty to their owners’ lives.
Animals that are commonly used in these therapies are dogs, cats, parrots, or such domesticated animals, farm animals, and even marine mammals. These animals have a calm, gentle personality and are people-oriented. They need to be comfortable with attention and petting and not be shy. In addition, they need basic obedience training and should be conditioned to sudden noises. They provide an invaluable service to those who are lonely, abandoned, or ill. Studies have shown that patients are more comfortable with therapists who come with animals. They find it less threatening.
Modern pet therapy has three stages. In the first stage, the patient meets the therapist without the therapy animal present. The therapist evaluates the amount of therapy the patient will need. From the next session, the animal is introduced. In the second step, the client and animal bond needs to be developed, which helps develop the client’s motor skills. This includes activities such as verbal commands to the animal to improve verbal skills, feeding it or grooming it to improve motor skills, and also getting it a bowl of water or food, which is physical therapy. This positive interaction with the animal is translated to human interaction. In the third stage, the therapist evaluates the patient and assesses whether he/she can undertake positive social interactions. Once the patient can interact with people as well as he/she is interacting with the animal, the therapy is complete.
Pets are wonderful for treating abused or neglected children, as they represent a sort of safe place for them. When kids realize that the animal is not alarmed by their behavior and does not judge them, they open up to it instantly. Since animals’ love is unconditional, children feel free to establish an emotional communication bridge with them. And by observing the way they interact with pets, doctors can discover how to cure those children. This therapy is very effective for children who have faced situations such as divorce, death, moving to another place to live, or even those who have been victims of sexual assault.
Specialists say that animals with healing powers include dogs, cats, parrots, guinea pigs, bunnies, llamas, horses, goats, and also dolphins. By stroking a fluffy cat, for instance, one can lower his blood pressure and reduce the level of stress. So they are ideal for people with heart diseases. Also, dogs are recommended for people with diabetes because such people need to exercise, and taking a dog for a walk is a great motivation to go out and walk themselves.
As the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, Allen Schoen puts it “In order to bond with animals, we have to step outside ourselves and learn to communicate on their terms”. He has written a book titled Love, Miracles and Animal Healing, where he speaks about the amazing healing capacities animals can have whenever their help is needed. He also recalls an incident about his own dog Megan, when she had accompanied him to deliver a calf. Megan licked the distressed cow, the farmer’s worried daughter, and even the calf after it was born. It made him realize that animals have their own way of healing others.
Animals can feel and even absorb a person’s anxiety, pain, and stress, and that is obvious to most people who are accustomed to them. Pets are highly influenced by the lifestyle of their owners: “…we emit energetic signals related to our deepest feelings that are picked up by those around us – especially our pets.”
The positive effect animals have on humans could simply be explained by the fact that they thus allow people to set their attention on the outside world, forgetting their own troubles and worries. One cannot really tell why animals are willing to help humans in this way, on the emotional level, or how exactly they manage to do it so wonderfully. This is probably one of the mysterious aspects of our earthly life, so maybe we should simply accept their free gift of love and compassion.