Our topic this week is... THERAPY ANIMALS!
Over here at Rescue Coffee we're still celebrating National Pet Month (but lets face it, every month is pet month). Our pets play a special role in our lives, but the work of therapy animals and the special bond between pet and owner is particularly amazing.
Anyone who’s had a pet knows how much their furry friend improves their quality of life. They can provide a sense of calm, comfort and their goofy/happy demeanour makes us laugh even on the worst of days. But did you know that owning a pet can actually decrease depression, stress and anxiety? Health-wise, pets can lower your blood pressure, improve your immunity (this is because having a pet around changes the microbiome of a person) and even decrease your risk of heart attack and stroke! So it’s no wonder therapy animals are being seen more and more in places such as hospitals, schools, nursing homes, rehabilitation centres, and even airports!
A Brief History:
Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) actually has roots that trace all the way back to the ancient Greeks. They were the first to use animals, specifically horses, to lift the spirits of the severely ill.
Pet animals were first used for therapeutic use in medieval Belgium. Interestingly enough, in this Belgian society, humans and animals were rehabilitated together.
In the 1600s, physicians were also reported to have been using horses to improve the physical and mental health of their patients and In the 1800s, Florence Nightingale observed that small pets reduced the levels of anxiety and stress in adult and youth psychiatric patients.
Nowadays AAT has become widely accepted- even being used to help soldiers dealing with PTSD. For example:
Lexy: a 5-year-old German shepherd is helping soldiers with stress disorders and mental health problems. She's a lieutenant colonel and became certified as Fort Bragg's only therapy dog. For Maj. Christine Rumayor, Lexy is a partner. "Stigma is one of the huge things the military is trying super hard to overcome - behavioural health stigma being the biggest one and Lexy is probably the biggest asset I have in overcoming that stigma," Rumayor said.
Tatyana, Lilou's owner, noticed how happy her pet pig made people when they were on their daily walks around San Francisco. Lilou would always leave a smile on people's faces and brighten their spirits. Tatyana knew Lilou had a special gift and wanted to see her spread more joy.
As a result they completed their therapy training and Lilou became the 1st certified Therapy Pig in the Animal Assisted Therapy Program with San Francisco's Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SF SPCA), in January 2016. Lilou and Tatyana now volunteer at the SFO Airport once a month. The pair also spread joy to many other facilities in the Bay Area community, such as hospitals, retirement homes and schools to name a few!
These sweet stories are just few examples of how therapy animals play an important role in our lives and development. The relationship between people and animals is a special one, to be cherished and celebrated. 🐾❤️