June 2017: A pet's comfort

posted on Wednesday, June 28, 2017 in From the Mailbox of Dr. M

Have you ever had one of those weeks- the ones that are mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausting? I had one of those not that long ago, and by the time Friday night rolled around, I was left searching for something to calm the inner turmoil that had accumulated. My usual “go-to” for refocusing myself was not cutting it. I was making the cross state trek to my family’s farm for the weekend, and it suddenly hit me what I needed: my dog. I needed to curl up on the floor and feel him snuggle his head into the crook of my arm, and thump his tail at his excitement of seeing me. I needed the peace that despite my faults, the failures and successes of the week, and more importantly, the many many things outside of my control going on in the world, that all would feel okay again. When this realization hit me, the struggle to hold back the tears that had been hiding was about as successful as using Swiss cheese to build a dam.

Now, I hands down have the best support system in the people in my life. They all bring such balance and happiness to my life; I truly am blessed. But, I also am the type of girl who needs wide open spaces and the chance to roam and interact with all of my animals. If you ask my mother, she can easily attest to this. As a child, I could be found spending hours outside with a herd of animals and livestock behind me. As I have journeyed through my life and veterinary career, I have seen firsthand the true healing significance of the human animal bond; so this month, we are going to explore the different ways this bond is used in daily life.

Animal Trained Therapy (ATT), actually got its start around the World War I era. However, there are still many avenues to explore on the benefits of this type of therapy. The most commonly known is the dog based therapies. Canines have been placed in nursing homes, prisons, schools, and even hospitals to enhance and balance the lives of people they interact with. For example, the Mayo Healthcare System in Rochester has a program called “Canine Cares.” This program allows patients interaction with the program’s trained canines during their treatments or hospital stays. Feedback from those involved in this program have been positive, stating that many patients report feeling energized, and in better spirits following the session.

A small number of studies have been done on animals living in nursing homes, and the positive effect that was seen amongst residents. Reports showed that residents became more interactive with each other, and the animals, while telling stories of their own experiences owning pets. When residents were given responsibility for caring for an in-house animal, an improvement in cognitive function and behaviorisms was noted amongst some residents. Though there is much more to investigate, and careful considerations must be given to placing animals in such a facility, the feedback thus far is promising.

Equine based therapy is another area that has undergone growth and expansion in the last few decades. Horses have been used for occupational and physical therapies, as well as speech/language therapies. From strengthening and conditioning of debilitated muscles, to positive, gentle interaction with a horse, the multipurpose therapies equines can offer can heal mind and body. We are fortunate enough to have such a facility nesting in the hills of Guthrie County. Timber Creek Therapies offers the previously mentioned therapies, and so much more! Check out their website for more information on what they have to offer.

For those of us who own animals, it may seem like common sense that they can bring happiness and enjoyment to our lifestyle, but when other people are able to experience these feelings, it makes an animal’s purpose in this world seem that much more special. There are so many more therapeutic options that I did not even begin to scratch the surface in this month’s blog- my main goal was to open the door to animal trained therapy to those who may not be familiar with it. Animal trained therapy goes beyond just vision assisting canines!

….When I finally got to my parents’ place that night, my four legged boy was waiting for me. He raced from one side of the kitchen to the next, waiting for that moment I sat down so he could bury his head in my lap. Later when we headed to bed and it was just him and I, I crawled on the floor and sure enough that tail went to town and his head found my arm. For the first time that week, I felt the stress and emotions of the week melt away.


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