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What Pets Can Do: Health and Healing

Posted by @colleenyoung, Sep 15, 2017

I was visiting a community hospital recently, waiting in line for a coffee. Across the lobby was a large, beautiful dog. As visitors and patients stopped to pet the dog and talk with the owner, you could literally see how their faces lit up with smiles and their bodies relaxed.

In the week leading up to exams at my daughter’s school, they bring in therapy dogs for the students to interact with. It helps reduce anxiety at a very stressful time for students. For many people, animals provide countless health benefits.

Cats, dogs, birds, fish, hamsters: How have animals comforted you, helped with recovery or promoted good health for you?

REPLY

@jimhd, @hazelblumberg, @marylou705, @artscaping, @contentandwell, @gailfaith, @gailg, @magspierce, @artscaping, @v1crew: in various discussions on Connect, you have mentioned the health and therapy benefits animals have had for you. I invite you to share stories and pictures about your experiences where pets have comforted, how you’ve trained your companions for specific therapeutic roles, and so much more. What special story do you have to share?

Where do I begin? As a dog trainer since age 10, I have trained dogs for disaster response, guide dogs for the blind, etc. and my own service dog. Maybe I will start with my last dog, whose picture represents me on Connect. He was an incredible dog….. and yes I know everyone says that about their own dogs, and they are truly right. When I officially made Tani my service dog, I think he laid awake nights thinking up things he could do for me. He came up with stuff that I wouldn’t have known how to even begin to train him. I did teach him to get me the cordless phone in case I fell. One day I did fall, and I was bleeding profusely so I couldn’t call for help with my cell which is always on me. He brought me the phone, and then while sitting on the floor waiting for help to arrive, he brought me HIS pillow! I did NOT ask for it. That was his idea. Oh yes, he was a Smooth (short haired) Collie). I had smooths for 57 years, all related as in the beginning I did breed. I had many smooths that graduated from one of the established guide dog schools. At the school where I taught, when a person is ready to graduate with their dog, they have a final test. THey have to say what they will go to buy and then come back with that item. THey had about a mile to walk to the stores . And another trainer was following them for safety. Three people with their dogs were walking together, and they stopped at a corner before crossing the street. While waiting for the handlers to ascertain the traffic before telling their dogs forward. suddenly all 3 dogs started to back up!!!!!!! The trainer had no idea at first what was happening, but a car coming down the street ran up on the sidewalk. How in the world did ALL three dogs know that was about to happen!!!!!!!

@gailfaith

Where do I begin? As a dog trainer since age 10, I have trained dogs for disaster response, guide dogs for the blind, etc. and my own service dog. Maybe I will start with my last dog, whose picture represents me on Connect. He was an incredible dog….. and yes I know everyone says that about their own dogs, and they are truly right. When I officially made Tani my service dog, I think he laid awake nights thinking up things he could do for me. He came up with stuff that I wouldn’t have known how to even begin to train him. I did teach him to get me the cordless phone in case I fell. One day I did fall, and I was bleeding profusely so I couldn’t call for help with my cell which is always on me. He brought me the phone, and then while sitting on the floor waiting for help to arrive, he brought me HIS pillow! I did NOT ask for it. That was his idea. Oh yes, he was a Smooth (short haired) Collie). I had smooths for 57 years, all related as in the beginning I did breed. I had many smooths that graduated from one of the established guide dog schools. At the school where I taught, when a person is ready to graduate with their dog, they have a final test. THey have to say what they will go to buy and then come back with that item. THey had about a mile to walk to the stores . And another trainer was following them for safety. Three people with their dogs were walking together, and they stopped at a corner before crossing the street. While waiting for the handlers to ascertain the traffic before telling their dogs forward. suddenly all 3 dogs started to back up!!!!!!! The trainer had no idea at first what was happening, but a car coming down the street ran up on the sidewalk. How in the world did ALL three dogs know that was about to happen!!!!!!!

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@gailfaith I think people finally realize just how intelligent dogs really are. I used to have a cavalier. He was resistant to some commands like “down”. When I said that he sort of let himself slide down. I think he was trying to tell me he just felt like relaxing, not that he was following a command! He was a real dear though, he loved everyone.
JK

@colleenyoung

@jimhd, @hazelblumberg, @marylou705, @artscaping, @contentandwell, @gailfaith, @gailg, @magspierce, @artscaping, @v1crew: in various discussions on Connect, you have mentioned the health and therapy benefits animals have had for you. I invite you to share stories and pictures about your experiences where pets have comforted, how you’ve trained your companions for specific therapeutic roles, and so much more. What special story do you have to share?

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@colleenyoung I actually have not had the benefit of having a pet for 11 years, long before my health problems started. I would love to have a dog again but my husband says if I add a pet I will be minus a husband!
JK

I’ve had dogs most of my life, except in college. I’ve always enjoyed them as pets, and my wife has usually had a cat.

My life went upside down in 2005. I was falling into a really deep depression and made multiple suicide attempts. I kept thinking I’d hit bottom, but then I’d go down deeper and darker. I admitted myself to a small facility for survivors of suicide attempts, and stayed for 6 weeks, until I felt like I’d be safe again. I wasn’t really, but life went on. I retired and began therapy, and after a couple of years I talked with my therapist about training my dog to be a service dog. I had an Aussie/Border Collie mix, who was a wonderful dog, and after working with him for over a year, he became my service animal.

Barnabas went everywhere with me, and was of great service to me with depression, PTSD and suicidal thoughts. Everybody loved him. But last year at Valentine’s, he had a stroke or some other brain event, a week after a checkup at the vet’s, where I was told he had years left in him (he was only 9). That was really hard, especially since I didn’t have a therapist right then, and couldn’t get one until a year later. That was an 18 month stretch without a therapist, and the last six were pretty dark. I was fortunate to find my next dog at our local humane shelter, a few weeks after Barnabas died. Sadie had just been brought in that day because the people had too many dogs, and decided to return her to the shelter. She was fearful and skittish, but I felt an immediate bond with her. We left her alone for a couple of days, so she could become comfortable in our home, with us, and with my wife’s little dog, Pete. After a year, she’s joined to me at the hip. If I go outside, she follows, and comes in when I do. We have ten acres, so she has lots of room to run, rodents to catch, cows and horses to herd – they either ignore her or run her off – but she always comes back to me and sits down near me and watches me work in the yard. If I’m kneeling, she sits right in front of me for some petting. She’s very attentive, obedient and therapeutic for me. When I’m extra depressed or feeling the anxiety level rising, she lies in my lap and the pressure of the weight of her body provides calming therapy on my torso, for as long as I need her.

One challenge of having a service dog is public ignorance. Everytime we go out, someone asks if they can pet her (No), or just pets her without asking. If they don’t pet her, they talk to her, which is pretty much the same as petting because they’re drawing her attention away from me. Cesar teaches don’t touch, don’t talk, don’t make eye contact.

An issue I’ve been dealing with is lack of understanding of the difference between service and therapy dogs. A service dog serves only its handler. A therapy dog is trained to serve others, such as in hospitals, to provide calming therapy for people. I was asked to have Sadie certified as a therapy dog, but I couldn’t agree to it because of the differing purposes of the service and therapy animals. For 5 years, I was a Hospice volunteer, visiting patients for an hour a week, in their homes, in the hospital, in care homes – wherever they were. A few had house pets, so I left my dog in the car during the visit (always in safe, shaded places, with water). Every other patient loved having my dog come with me to visit them. I made an exception to the no pet rule with hospice patients because it meant so much to them. I had to resign a few months ago because they wrote a set of guidelines that specifies only certified therapy dogs could go with volunteers. I hated to give up that volunteer job. I think it helped me get out and interact with others, and it gave me a chance to give out to those who have a real need.

Of course, Sadie’s more than a pet, though she is that, too, but she provides the companionship of a pet, the devotion and unconditional love.

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@contentandwell, Hi y’all, Judy here, I saw your conversation. If you want a pet I will tell you what I did. I’m not saying it’s right, just sayin…My husband also (last husband), did not want a pet, and he was pretty adamant. I had always wanted a Golden Retriever, so one day at Christmas, the kids and I piled into the car and drove to Tacoma to find Gillians’ Maggie May. She was the only little girl available but I loved her at first sight.
She was already 3 months old, and it seemed like people were choosing other dogs over her. Their loss, our gain. Anyway, my husband was in the living room when we walked in. He set his mouth in a line of disapproval and stalked into the bedroom. He said, “why did you do that”? “I really wanted a Golden”. I asked him, “what if I was dying, then could I have a dog”? “Well sure”, he replied. I said, “well, why do I have to be dying to have something to enjoy and love, like a dog”? He had no answers for me. Maggie became a daddy’s girl and was a complete joy to be around. She was the first one out of the house to bring in the groceries. If, while she was outside, she needed to go pee, she would walk away from the grocery bag about 15-20ft, go pee, and go back for the bag. She also brought in the mail, tied up in a plastic bag of course. She was a wonder to behold, and I was never sorry that I went and got her, no, not one day. If you ever can’t decide over a dog to choose, Goldens are great. They already know how to smile. That’s what I did. Love you all, Judy.

@contentandwell , I can’t forget about Harley, my baby. I got him as Maggie was dying of cancer. Bad times. Anyway, at the time I didn’t know I would be having even worse times ahead. Some day I will try to explain why. I was experiencing a great deal of fear. I expected either myself, or my kids, to be attacked at any moment. If I hadn’t had Harley, things would have been so much worse for me. He kept me sane. He has been with me almost 24/7. What will I do when he passes? After I cry, if I’m able, I will adopt another dog that needs me. Guys, there are millions out there who need us.
Judy

@danybegood1

@contentandwell , I can’t forget about Harley, my baby. I got him as Maggie was dying of cancer. Bad times. Anyway, at the time I didn’t know I would be having even worse times ahead. Some day I will try to explain why. I was experiencing a great deal of fear. I expected either myself, or my kids, to be attacked at any moment. If I hadn’t had Harley, things would have been so much worse for me. He kept me sane. He has been with me almost 24/7. What will I do when he passes? After I cry, if I’m able, I will adopt another dog that needs me. Guys, there are millions out there who need us.
Judy

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@danybegood1 Absolutely. And for those strong and brave enough, adopting a mature animal is enormous!

Jim

Dany here, why isn’t Harley’s picture showing? I’m so confused. Judy

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I see him. Pics can be slow to appear.

Jim

@jimhd ,@contentandwell, Everyone’s stories are so sweet, I love reading them. What would life be like without a dog? Love, Judy

@colleenyoung

@jimhd, @hazelblumberg, @marylou705, @artscaping, @contentandwell, @gailfaith, @gailg, @magspierce, @artscaping, @v1crew: in various discussions on Connect, you have mentioned the health and therapy benefits animals have had for you. I invite you to share stories and pictures about your experiences where pets have comforted, how you’ve trained your companions for specific therapeutic roles, and so much more. What special story do you have to share?

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JK, @contentandwell

If I were you, I’d keep hubby and forget the dog!

Teresa

Colleen @colleenyoung and others

At Henry Ford Hospital, they have a therapy dog as well who roams the hospital (with a handler) greeting people and allowing patients and visitors to pet him. His name is Henry (of course) and I always look forward to seeing him! He really is a great therapist!

Teresa

@colleenyoung

@jimhd, @hazelblumberg, @marylou705, @artscaping, @contentandwell, @gailfaith, @gailg, @magspierce, @artscaping, @v1crew: in various discussions on Connect, you have mentioned the health and therapy benefits animals have had for you. I invite you to share stories and pictures about your experiences where pets have comforted, how you’ve trained your companions for specific therapeutic roles, and so much more. What special story do you have to share?

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We have rescue cats, tho I grew up with a myriad of pets. Two of mine have a limb missing, one is 18, one has lymphoma, and one has IBD! It is such a joy to me to cater to their special needs, and they give love back in spades. Did you know that the frequency of a cats purr is healing? Both to the cat and to the doting owner?

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@colleenyoung

@jimhd, @hazelblumberg, @marylou705, @artscaping, @contentandwell, @gailfaith, @gailg, @magspierce, @artscaping, @v1crew: in various discussions on Connect, you have mentioned the health and therapy benefits animals have had for you. I invite you to share stories and pictures about your experiences where pets have comforted, how you’ve trained your companions for specific therapeutic roles, and so much more. What special story do you have to share?

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@marylou705
I did not know about the purring and healing connection – but I certainly believe it’s true! Great picture

Teresa

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