Animal Assisted Therapy–, Health Benefits –Dogs, “Men’s BEST Friends!

Most of us don’t need science and research to feel the benefits of having pets. I refer to dogs because their unconditional love is what I have been experiencing directly, for years .I know  cat lovers or any animal lovers in general, could vouch for their favorite type of animal-companion and their importance in their lives. 

The story I am about to share happened years ago, in communist Romania.

When I was eighteen I rushed into marrying my high school sweetheart and  moved on our own. It was not clear if  our parents approved or disapproved, as we eloped. Fact is, my mother gave us money to buy a bed.On our way to the store, we crossed path with a drunk man  dragging a small, black dog, screaming and cursing his ex-wife and threatening to kill her dog if he couldn’t find a buyer. We stopped and I asked in horror: “Sir, how much is the dog?”

“How much do you have?” the man responded. (I guess, he wasn’t THAT drunk!!!)

We told him how much we had to buy a bed and such a coincidence!!! The amount we had was EXACTLY the price of the dog!!!:)

 We spent the following year saving  money for a bed and sleeping on the floor, cuddling with the dog and each other.

From times immemorial it has been known that humans and their animal (pet) companions have shared a strong bond. (http://www.americanhumane.org) but to be accepted,  the benefits of animal assisted therapy had to be proven scientifically, and it had.

As early as the mid-1990s in Abington, PA (USA),  my dog Gretel and I belonged to a  dog therapy group and  regularly visited Abington Hospital and  area nursing homes. Animal Assisted Therapy works for the young and the old alike .It works for everyone who loves animals.It has been proven to lower blood pressure, lower anxiety and  makes for an overall happier environment. A 1998 article by E. Richart points out the successful use of Animal Assisted Therapy as an adjunct to play therapy and therapeutic storytelling.The many benefits of specially trained “service” dogs to help the blind and people with disabilities, could make the topic of a whole other post.

So… if it is generally accepted and scientifically proven that our companion pets are beneficial, why are there so many communities and condominium complexes and hotels, and places for rent which do not allow residents/visitor to have a pet companion?  Why so many hotels still do not allow our “best friends,” to travel with us?

The good news, is that more and more hotels are changing their policies to allow companion pets. It seems  the West Coast  hotels are more pet friendly.Also,there are pet friendly hotels in Chicago, IL, some in  Florida  ( Miami and Tampa) and in New York City.

For details, please visit: http://www.officialpethotels.com  or search “popular pet friendly destinations.” 

Part of the “good news,” is the implementation of dog  therapy in  some colleges, as it has been proven, it helps with anxiety and stress. I find it significant that many of these programs started in law schools and medical schools, both known as high stress professions.

I am  more familiar with the dog therapy program started in June, 2013 at the Countway Library of Medicine at Harvard (https://countway.harvard.edu) but there are pet assisted therapy programs on the raise in many colleges.

At Countway Library of Medicine, Harvard, Cooper, a Shih-Tzu puppy was included as part of the library staff. He keeps half-hour sessions, twice a week. Students and staff with proper i.d.may spend  half- hour sessions cuddling or playing with Cooper!

Similar programs are also available at ten other colleges, according to the article entitled,  “10 Top Colleges with Successful Pet Therapy Programs.” (01/23/12)

It is about time to acknowledge and respect men’s best friends for the UNCONDITIONAL love they offer us, the humans, and perhaps learn from them…