PETS IN THERAPY WORK
Anyone who owns a pet knows how good they are capable of making us feel. When they look adoringly into our eyes, sit quietly beside us; as we touch and pet them... A bad day seems better when we can put our arms around our pet and feel like they love us and that they care.
Pet therapy, also known as Animal Assisted Therapy, involves the use of animals interacting positively with patients in hospitals and homes for the elderly, either just to make patients feel more relaxed, to give them something to look forward to, to break the monotony of living in a care facility, and to encourage them to socialise; or with specific goals for recovery of illness in mind. The positive emotions pets can make people feel are beneficial in physical recuperation and can enhance the quality of their lives.
All kinds of animals can be used in therapy work: dogs, cats, rabbits, horses, birds, etc. But the most popular therapy pets are dogs and cats. Any breed of dog has the potential to be a therapy dog.
Dogs used for pet therapy must have a basic level of obedience skills. Some organisations will only accept pets who have completed a canine good citizen test and a vet check and temperament test, while other organisations and hospitals only require a temperament test along with the basic obedience skills.
Dogs need to be well socialised to be therapy dogs as they will encounter all kinds of situations and patients so must be able to deal with these in a calm and unconcerned manner.
There are many different organisations that use therapy pets; one well known organisation in Australia is Delta Society Australia. For more information on pet therapy, or to find out if your pet may be suitable as being a therapy pet, please visit their website http://www.deltasocietyaustralia.com.au. Obedience clubs in your area may also be able to provide more information on facilities providing pet therapy.
Mungo, owned by Helen Hazel and Paul Smith, is pictured with a seventy year old stroke victim who has limited mobility, and very much looks forwards to his visits with Mungo. Climbing and sitting on the bed is a must with him, no matter what Mungo's size.