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Animal lovers know they do not imagine this emotional bond, and so do scientists. Experts studying the relationship between people and pets find that positive human-animal interaction reduces stress, fear and anxiety and sparks an increase of oxytocin, the so-called love hormone.
The findings are not a surprise to Kristy Montee. She and her husband Dan Norman share their Tallahassee home with rescue critters, Phoebe, a petite year-old terrier mix, and Archie, a sassy 2-year-old long-haired chihuahua. Pet owners talk about companionship and comfort as prime benefits of having a pet, especially important during the pandemic. Petryk himself has 14 animals at home — two cats, two dogs, an African grey parrot, a hedgehog, four Australian sugar gliders and four flying squirrels.
Somehow the world brightens. The value of that human-animal bond is at the heart of animal therapy initiatives. The Animal Therapy Services Program at Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare oversees teams and six species of animals — cats, dogs, parrots, rabbits, a standard horse and two dwarf horses. These animals and volunteers, who attend classes for eight weeks and are certified every two years, visit patients in hospitals, hospices, assisted living facilities, nursing homes, schools and libraries, said Stephanie Perkins, director of the TMH animal therapy program.
One of the most compelling roles for these therapy animals takes place in the courthouse. TMH provides animal therapy teams for victims of violent crimes. The program emphasizes that therapy dogs in the courtroom can help calm traumatized victims so they can give statements and testimony that would otherwise be difficult or impossible for them to provide.
The dog is with them, and it helps them reduce their anxiety. Having a dog by their Very long haired Tallahassee chat makes them feel more comfortable. The teams work in child dependency courts as well as criminal courts, where the most stoic canines have the ability to lie still, providing a constant companion through an ordeal. Therapy dogs also help children learn. In the process, kids become more confident and improve their reading and speaking skills.
Due to the pandemic, the program has made adjustments, switching to virtual visits for some of its programs and, in the hospital, connecting patients with pets and volunteers by ZOOM when possible. In many settings, the dogs make a difference, she said.
Dogs can help with grieving, and they can often single out the person in a group who most needs help, she said. Animals have helped patients who have had surgery get up and exercise.
They found that while all individuals who lost a spouse experienced higher levels of depression, people without a pet experienced more ificant increases in depressive symptoms and loneliness than those who had pets. Dogs, in particular, may help people in stressful events, said Carr, because they are getting exercise and more social interaction by walking the dog, they can talk to the dog, stick to a routine and they feel like they matter.
The idea is that horses can be beneficial in the treatment of psychological issues such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, attention deficit disorders, autism, substance abuse, eating disorders, abuse issues and family and relationship issues.
Corine has three horses on her team as well as her human teammate equine specialist, Peggy Jo rdan. Samwel calls the therapy experiential. How people interact with the horse can be a metaphor for other issues, like if someone says the horse is pushy, she can explore what pushy means to the client, said Samwel, whose own pets, besides the horses, include dogs, a cat and chickens. They also are great teachers of being in the moment.
With the help of horses and obstacles, her program also works on team building for businesses to explore leadership styles, communication, creativity and conflict resolution in a fun setting. On a walk with our three rescue dogs in Guyte P. Be free, avoid the heartbreak, I think. But so what — I always get another pet. Or several. Pets just make life better.
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Animals Can Be Dear Companions