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Pets for Therapy

by: Nancy M. Gerhardt, DVM

Pets are increasingly popular for use in therapy for the elderly, for children, for people with emotional or physical difficulties and for those of us who have experienced the common problems of shyness or loneliness. It has been said that "Animals are such agreeable friends-they ask no questions and "they pass no criticisms."Having once been a shy child whose next best friend besides her many pets was the shelter of books and poetry, I know how much an animal friend can mean to someone living alone or who is shy.

There are new companion dogs trained not only to assist the visually or hearing impaired but also for people who are otherwise physically challenged. These working dogs are an active help to their masters, helping them to lead fuller and happier lives. For those who do not qualify to be assigned a trained working dog and are unable to handle one less thoroughly trained, small dogs, cats, birds or small caged pets provide companionship, a sense of belonging, and a boost to self-esteem in times of discouragement.

There is nothing comparable to coming home to that cheerful tail-wag, meow, or even the happy squeal of a guinea pig or the chatter of a parakeet. Indeed, whether coming home or staying home, no matter what stressors each of us may face as we go about our day, pets can make the whole day worthwhile! Thank God for our animal friends!