The following is a guest post from Ashley Spade. Ashley, in addition to being Sir Winston Pugsalot the First’s favorite human, is a blogger and law student. She volunteers at her local pug rescue in between studying and training for triathlons (sometimes at the same time).
It’s safe to say that people love their dogs. A lot. I’m no exception. I love my pug, Sir Winston Pugsalot the First (Sir WP for short), so much that I just bought him pet insurance in case he’s injured in a car accident. Too much? I think not.
My love for dogs (especially pugs) was inspired by my aunt who had two little pugs named Riff and Raff. I loved playing with them whenever my mother and I visited my aunt on weekends.
Riff and Raff later died, almost within a year of each other, while I was away in college. My aunt was devastated to lose them, but vowed to eventually get another dog to fill the void. But, she was diagnosed with breast cancer before she had the chance.
I’m proud to say she’s a survivor. To this day, she credits her faith, an aggressive regimen of breast cancer treatment, and pet therapy for her recovery.
Why Pet Therapy?
So, of all the therapies she could have undergone, why did her doctors include pet therapy into the plan?
Like I said, people love their dogs– and what’s more comforting than being visited in the hospital by an adorable canine?
Pets have a way of calming us, decreasing blood pressure, conjuring up positive memories and increasing our quality of life. They can help patients feel hopeful and unconditionally accepted. Pets have a way of lifting moods all without the pressure of the patient having to talk or interact with a volunteer. Dogs show uninhibited and unbiased passion for something as simple as just sitting with a patient.
How Does It Work?
My aunt’s treatment center offered pet therapy as an option, and her physician even suggested that she try to spend time around pets outside of treatment. That’s where Sir WP and myself came in.
Within a treatment center, pet therapy operates with the help of volunteers and trained dogs. The volunteers bring a trained dog to the patient for a set amount of time and repeat on a scheduled basis. It’s a welcome break from the taxing medical treatments and decreases the patient’s anxiety.
Though Sir WP is a very well-behaved dog, I couldn’t bring him to the treatment center because he wasn’t formally trained for the program. Instead, I brought him to my aunt’s house twice a week while she was recovering at home. He loved curling up on her lap, wagging his little tail and licking her face. Plus, he reminded her so much of her amazing pugs, Riff and Raff.
Pets are proven to reduce emotional strain, blood pressure, anxiety, depression, and flat out boredom.
Dogs allow patients to release essential hormones like prolactin, oxytocin and phenyl ethylamine within minutes of the start of an interaction. Depending on the nature of the patient, dogs have also been able to help rehabilitate patients by helping them learn to walk or helping special needs children develop life and motor skills.
How You Can Help
Many hospitals and treatment centers are starting to offer pet therapy. You can contact local hospitals and treatment facilities in your area and find out about the process for becoming a volunteer. There are also many organizations that conduct pet therapy either through a hospital or independently. Or, if you have your own well-behaved dog and know a family member or close friend who’s going through treatment for illness, you can always volunteer to swing by with your pet to help give them a boost.