If you ever read the Peanuts comic strips as a child, you will immediately remember the picture of Charlie Brown hugging Snoopy. What you may not realize, is just how true the statement is. That spending time with animals produces marked improvements in humans, affecting the physical, mental, emotional and social aspects of their well-being. Well maybe not all animals. I can't imagine a tarantula giving me warm fuzzy feelings, well maybe just fuzzy!
I want to introduce you to a cute little dog named Corgi, and a heartwarming story that happened yesterday.
Destination Fitness works with many seniors and children and adults with Special Needs in the comfort of their homes. Yesterday, our trainer Stephanie Hayashi was visiting an elderly couple she trains. The husband is having quite a few health problems and Stephanie performs functional Exercise Therapy with him to help keep his muscle tone strong as he recovers. His wife thought it may be a good idea to bring a therapy dog into their home to live to help cheer him up. The dog was very well behaved but due to the care our clients wife had to give her husband, caring for a dog as well proved to be too much for her. Stephanie showed up to train the couple and found the wife in tears felling so very overwhelmed. Stephanie calmed her fears and tears and told her not to worry, that she would take the dog home with her until they found a better solution. Through this journey, Stephanie discovered that there are many dog therapy organizations who for free will stop by with a therapy dog for a visit. A much better solution for this family. I had known about therapy animals but thought I would do a little research so other's may benefit from their warm fuzzy hugs as well.
Therapy animal teams witness many improvements during their visits. Both emotional and physical. Here is a list of the Mental Benefits of having a therapy animal or dog visit.
- Decrease in stress and anxiety, including that from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Decrease in depression
- Decrease in loneliness and feelings of isolation
- Decrease in aggressive behaviors
- Increase in feeling of acceptance, and in-turn the ability to accept social and emotional support
- Increase in socialization and an outward focus, including opportunities for laughter and a sense of well-being
- Increase in mental stimulation, attention skills and verbal interactions
- Increase in spirit and self-esteem, enabling a patient to further participate in mental and physical therapy and to be more involved in group activities
Physical Benefits include:
- Decrease in blood pressure
- Decrease in heart rate
- Decrease in stress hormone cortisol
- Increase in hormones associated with health and a feeling of well being
- Increase in level of fitness by providing stimulus for exercise with improvement in activities in which they were limited
- Improvement in fine motor skills, standing balance, wheelchair and other physical skills. In Illinois you can find a therapy dog through the following sites:
Therapy dogs make frequent visits to hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living and hospice centers. There are read to a dog programs at schools. Therapy dogs are even brought in during finals week at universities to help reduce stress for the students. Therapy dogs are also brought in to disaster relief areas to help reduce the stress of those displaced from a disaster.
Here is a list of dog therapy organizations in Illinois.
- Champ Therapy Dogs: www.champdogs.org
- Dogs on Call: www.dogsoncall.org
- Paws 4 Patients: www.paws4patientsinc.org
- PAWSitive Therapy Troupe: www.pawsitivetherapy.com
If you know of someone in need of a warm fuzzy hug, please visit the above sites and help them experience happiness! I get a warm feeling in my heart from hearing Stephanie's story, we hope you do too! Destination Fitness and our team of trainers truly loves helping our clients and will always go the extra mile for them!
Jill Lindberg, Owner, Destination Fitness