An animal can offer enjoyment and distraction from pain and suffering. People often talk to pets and share with them their thoughts and feelings and memories. Pets provide something to look forward to. Stroking a dog or cat can reduce a person’s blood pressure. Petting encourages the use of hands and arms, stretching and turning.
Pet Therapy can help people feel less lonely and less depressed. Nonjudgemental attention from dogs can provide a welcome change from routine or the renewal of old friendships. People become more active and responsive both during and after pet therapy.
The pet makes it easier for two strangers to talk. It gives people a common interest and provides a focus for conversation. Many people in hospitals or group homes have to give up pet ownership and they miss the casual acceptance a pet gives them. A dog pays little attention to age or physical ability but gives unconditional love.
My dog Cheddar is a large English Spaniel and Golden Retriever mixed breed. He has ticklish ribs which makes him thump his leg when he’s petted. Cheddar loves to brighten the day of people. What Cheddar calls “fun” has a label of animal-assisted therapy. Neither Cheddar nor the people he will visit know about the title. They just know that they enjoy seeing each other. Between them is the very basic communication of caring.
Before Cheddar and I visit, you have a little paperwork to complete. Each visitor certifies that they have not been recently exposed to chicken pox and that they do not currently have the flu or the common cold.