Personal information obtained on therapy visits is confidential. When applicable the name/location/sex/condition of persons visited may be changed to protect privacy. However, the interactions, conversations are true and did occur as written.
Gopher, Squirrel, Chad, and Carla are all volunteers. They do not officially represent any institution that may be mentioned.
Volunteers who work as a team for Animal Assisted Therapy and Animal Assisted Activities spend a great deal of time training themselves and their animal partners. When done correctly it is the perfect representation of the human-non human animal bond. Furthermore it has a tremendous effect on the patients in need, this has been proved time and again in academic literature.
Here are a few examples of the scientific work that has proven the benefits.
The Effects of Animal-Assisted Therapy on Loneliness in anElderly Population in Long-Term Care Facilities
The proven benefits are often missed by the public, health care administrators and even the team themselves. They just see it as something fun to do, and a nice way to give back which is also true.
What is a therapy visit though?
It is simply the only two gifts you can truly give someone, time and love.
I would also argue that the return benefit for the handler, is equal to or even greater than the team to the patient.
This last week has been difficult professionally for this handler, add into this the typical stresses of a lower income middle class family when the dollar does not seem to stretch far enough, I was at the end of my proverbial rope. I would say I was also just barely hanging on to the last fiber of hemp in that rope.
Monday night arrived with a special request. Visit a long term patient. Time to go, get up, be with my boy, my wife and her partner, and spend some of my favorite family time.
When we arrived we found not only our long term patient, but another patient we had seen several times before. Both showed the obvious signs of prolonged illness and prolonged treatment. Some are discomforted by this, but after so many years as a working team and not being a father of human children I find interacting with ‘normal’ kids more difficult.
The room descended quickly into laughter. Hugs and countless pets for each of the boys, both of whom were in rare form with the excitement of seeing a patient whom they love visiting.
The evening passed, and despite appearances, signs of prolonged illness, the beeping of medical equipment and kids attached to hardware, the room was only filled with joy and love in those moments.
Our time together had come to an end for now and we left. Each of us feeling a little more energetic, a much needed refill of joy and love. The boys as you can see in the pictures below, a little ‘brighter’ as well, at least their nails were.
So do yourself a favor, love your dog, cat, rabbit or gerbil……..train them.....it will only make your bond with them stronger. Take a therapy animal training class…..learn all you can….become a team. It is hard work, it is emotional, it is the best feeling you can have. It allows you to give the only true gift you can give, time and love. The benefits to the patients has been proved by scientists, the benefits it will give to you…..well you will just have to take me at my word.