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Therapy Dogs Healing Humans of All Ages

Therapy Dogs Healing Humans of All Ages

A Wagging Tail’s Healing Touch

As I walk through the hospital doors, a familiar feeling washes over me – a sense of anticipation and excitement. I know what’s coming, and the patients here do too. It’s time for our weekly visit, and Buddy, my four-legged therapy partner, can hardly contain his enthusiasm.

Buddy is a golden retriever with a heart of gold. He’s been by my side for the past five years, bringing comfort and joy to countless individuals in need. Whether it’s a child battling a serious illness or an elderly patient struggling with loneliness, Buddy has a way of sensing exactly what each person requires. With a gentle nudge, a warm snuggle, or a enthusiastic lick, he communicates a message that transcends words: “I’m here for you.”

The Powerful Bond of Human-Animal Interaction

Research from the Human-Animal Bond in Colorado (HABIC) program has consistently shown the profound impact therapy dogs can have on human health and wellbeing. As part of Colorado State University’s School of Social Work, HABIC sponsors community programs, education, and research to explore the remarkable benefits of the human-animal connection.

Through their volunteer therapy teams, HABIC has witnessed firsthand how a simple interaction with a furry friend can make all the difference. Whether it’s reducing anxiety in a hospitalized child, providing comfort to a grieving family, or sparking joy in a memory care resident, the presence of a therapy dog has an almost magical effect.

Becoming a Therapy Dog Team

Of course, it takes more than just a friendly dog to make an effective therapy team. As the HABIC award recipients demonstrate, it’s a commitment that requires dedication, training, and a deep understanding of the human-animal bond.

When Buddy and I first decided to embark on this journey, we knew it wouldn’t be easy. The comprehensive 12-week training program, which included classroom lessons and supervised visits, was both challenging and rewarding. We learned essential skills like animal behavior, handling techniques, and how to navigate complex healthcare environments.

But the real test came when we had to pass a nationally standardized behavioral exam. With Buddy’s infectious enthusiasm and my newfound expertise, we aced it – and the rest, as they say, is history. Now, as a HABIC-certified therapy team, we’re ready to make a difference in the lives of those who need us most.

Spreading Joy and Healing

My favorite part of our visits is witnessing the transformative power of the human-animal connection. Just like the UCLA’s People-Animal Connection program, we’ve seen patients’ vital signs improve, their moods lift, and their spirits soar simply by interacting with Buddy.

One memory that stands out is our visit to the pediatric ward. As we entered the room, a young boy who had been withdrawn and listless suddenly perked up, his eyes widening with delight. He cautiously reached out a trembling hand to pet Buddy, and within moments, he was giggling and playing fetch. The change was nothing short of remarkable.

Similarly, at Ballad Health facilities, therapy dogs like Buddy are regularly requested by clinical staff to help patients who are struggling with depression, loneliness, or the stress of hospitalization. The calming presence of these canine companions can work wonders, contributing to the overall healing process.

A Calling to Serve

As I reflect on our journey as a therapy team, I’m reminded of the profound impact we’ve had on the lives of others. It’s a humbling experience, and one that fills me with a deep sense of purpose. Buddy and I aren’t just visiting patients – we’re forming connections, building trust, and spreading joy in a way that words alone cannot.

In a world that can sometimes feel cold and impersonal, the power of the human-animal bond shines through. That’s why I’m so passionate about encouraging more people to consider becoming therapy dog volunteers. The rewards, both for the humans and the dogs, are truly immeasurable.

So, if you have a furry friend with a gentle demeanor and a loving heart, I urge you to explore the possibility of joining the ranks of therapy dog teams. Together, we can continue to heal, comfort, and inspire those who need it most, one wagging tail at a time.

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