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Man’s best friend could be promoted from friend status to your personal therapist as dog therapy helps people in several ways.
According to National Geographic, the US has more than 50,000 therapy dogs.
Mary Lou Jennings is the coordinator of the animal-assisted therapy program at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. This program called Paws Can Heal brings therapy animals to the hospital to help patients with motivation, anxiety reduction, and pain distraction.
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“Our goal is really to make her hospital room more like her home bedroom,” said Jennings. “The idea is that we provide some normalization of their environment. If they had a dog at home, the dog would be in their room, the dog would be on top of their bed, the dog would be hanging out with them. “
Jennings said therapy dogs also have such an emotional impact on patients that doctors wait for them to enter after seeing the therapy dog. A therapy dog working a two-hour shift sees approximately eight to 15 children per day and approximately 10,000 to 14,000 patients per year.
“The patient’s mood is heightened, the family’s mood is heightened, and it’s something that takes overtime,” Jennings said. “It just doesn’t happen for the five or ten minutes we’re in the room, but it lasts for the next two to three hours and that affects your ability to participate in anything else that can happen to the room Rest of the day.”
Paws Can Heal has a budget of approximately $ 90,000 to $ 100,000 annually and is funded entirely by donations and volunteers. Jennings said they have about 75 volunteers and 50 dogs.
HABRI, the Human Animal Bond Research Institute, conducted a survey in 2016 and found that 54% of pet owners noticed improvements in physical health and 74% of pet owners noticed improvements in mental health.
In addition to helping people with medical needs, therapy dogs can help anyone, including college students.
Sharon Martin started Sun Devil Paws Therapy in 2015. Martin and her friend brought their certified therapy dogs to the memorial association on the ASU Tempe campus. As they started making more connections, people started calling them to events.
“We have newbies who have never been out of their state or their parents’ house and who miss their animals,” said Martin. “The dogs are normal; The dogs are part of their lives and they miss them terribly. “
Sun Devil Paws Therapy is a non-profit organization that does not charge any fees for its services, but does ask clubs to pay for parking costs. You’re on campus approximately eight to ten times per semester, which can mean up to $ 90 for parking depending on the number of dogs attending an event. Martin said they have about 20 teams on call and about 12 of them working consistently.
“It can even be the second week of school and we have kids who say, ‘I miss my dog so much,” said Martin. “It just makes a big difference. It doesn’t matter where you are if you have a cute dog see, you will go down and stroke him. “
COVID-19 restrictions forced Sun Devil Paws Therapy to stay home, but Martin said they made it work. All dogs learned how to zoom and look at the camera. She said they are now attending more events but are still COVID safe. Anyone who pats a dog must wear a mask and use hand sanitizer beforehand.
“My favorite thing is to watch all these people in their own world and see the dog and their face light up and they smile,” said Martin. “It used to be so fun to see the expressions on their faces and now we see their masks so I can’t wait to see those happy faces again.”