Therapy Dogs: Source of Healing Through Unconditional Love - Research Paper Example

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Therapy Dogs: Source Of Healing Through Unconditional Love Introduction Unconditional affection and love is an essential element for healthy and happy life of human beings. Dogs are well known for displaying the quality of providing unconditional affection and love…
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Therapy Dogs: Source Of Healing Through Unconditional Love Introduction Unconditional affection and love is an essential element for healthy and happy life of human beings. Dogs are well known for displaying the quality of providing unconditional affection and love. Hence, dogs have become a major source of therapeutic healing in elderly people, children and adolescents, who are undergoing treatment for mental, physical and emotional disorders. Definition Therapy dogs are “privately owned pets that have received behavioral training to provide comfort to individuals in institutional settings including hospitals, nursing and retirement homes, mental institutions, schools, facilities for autistic and abused children” etc (Ensminger 88). Due to their responsibility, the therapy dogs are not only trained but they are also tested and certified for the job of providing ‘therapy’ to people who are in need of it (Marcus 5). Therapy dogs are expected to provide consistent comfort and affection to patients in safe manner (Marcus 5). Also, as therapy dogs have to interact with strangers on daily basis, they need to be social, engaging and responsive in their behavior (Marcus 6). Therapy dogs also need to have a positive temperament as they are expected to make their visit a safe and happy experience for the patients, who might be confused and distressed due to their sickness (Marcus 6). Interestingly, the phenomenal growth in the number of therapy dog teams in the United States does not have any scientific basis (Ensminger 88). The bond with their pet dogs have proved so valuable for people that without even knowing if there is any scientific basis behind the ‘therapeutic’ benefits of dog, they are taking their dogs for certification tests to get them a status of ‘therapy dog’ (Ensminger 88). Dogs are known to help people in many ways. Dog assistance during therapy In year 1960, psychologist Boris Levinson observed the therapeutic effects his dog had on one of his adolescent clients (Ensminger 87). Levinson coined the word “animal-assisted therapy” for the benefits of dog during therapy and wrote medical literature on it (Ensminger 87). During the therapy, dogs serve several purposes like reducing the anxiety of children and adolescents about the therapy, developing comfort level and rapport of patients with their therapist and also, by being a model of unconditional love and support, dogs help the patients to learn to give generously in relationships (Ensminger 88). Moreover, it was also observed that children change their behavior and body language when they are with dogs as they love being with them and wants their attention (Ensminger 88). To avoid the dog from going away, children display a mature and nice behavior, as they prefer the love of dogs than the dominating behavior of their parents and elders (Ensminger 88). Also, the therapy dogs that are trained in agility can help children and adolescents in therapy to become active, build physical skills and in physical release of anxiety or nervous energy (Sori and Hecker 7). In this way, therapy dogs help immensely in bringing out the best in children. At the same time, therapy dogs also help in assisting the elderly people. Therapy dog assistance of elderly people It has been observed by therapy dog volunteers that elderly people suddenly become emotionally expressive and open when they come in contact with therapy dogs (Cusack and Smith 151). The elderly patients who feel loss of independence and lonely in the nursing home environment, get an opportunity to feel alive and ‘needed’ when they come in contact with the therapy dogs on weekly basis (Cusack and Smith 151). The affection and unconditional love they get from therapy dogs makes their lives happy. Moreover, the therapy dogs help elderly patients to relive the fond memories from their past as they remind them of their own pets and the time spent with them (Cusack and Smith 151). Moreover, by helping the elderly patients to express their thoughts and feelings, the therapy dogs also make them realize that they still possess the same emotions, vitality and zest for life which they possessed before coming to the nursing home (Cusack and Smith 151). According to an Australian study, everything around the elderly people changes positively when they experience the constant, fixed and undying loyalty of the “ever-present pet” (Frydenborg 31). Another Australian study found that the feeling of loneliness in elderly people is reduced to a great extent even if they get to spend as little as 30 minutes with therapy dogs every week (Frydenborg 31). The same study revealed that patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease become calm, responsive and clear in their thinking as a result of spending some time with therapy dogs every week (Frydenborg 31). Therapy dogs motivate patients a lot as in the presence of dogs, people who are reticent show willingness to talk, and patients who cannot move their arms try to move them in order to pet the dog (Palika and Miller 32). Interestingly, not only patients but also the nursing staff benefits a lot from the interaction with therapy dogs (Frydenborg 31). Hence, therapy dogs are great gift for elderly people in need of love, support and company. Conclusion The literature review shows that, through their unconditional love and support, therapy dogs play a major role in healing the elderly people, children and adolescents who are undergoing therapy and treatment. However, the literature also reveals that interaction with dogs is not only beneficial for patients, but is also beneficial for normal people as dogs help them learn how to love and give affection to others unconditionally. Work Cited Cusack, Oden, and Elaine Smith. Pets and The Elderly: The Therapeutic Bond. Binghampton: The Haworth Press, Inc. Ensminger, John. Service And Therapy Dogs In American Society: Science, Law And Evolution Of Canine Caregivers. Springfield: Charles Thomas. Publishers Ltd., 2010. Frydenborg, Kay. Animal Therapist. Broomall: Chelsea House Publisher, 2006. Marcus, Dawn. The Power Of Wagging Tails: A Doctor’s Guide To Dog Therapy And Healing. New York: Demos Medical Publishing, 2011. Palika, Liz and Katherine Miller. Animals At Work. Hoboken: Wiley Publishing, 2009. Sori, Catherine and Lorna Hecker. The Therapist’s Notebook. New York: Routledge, 2008. Read More
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