Monday, September 28, 2009

Pet Therapy

Over the years I've been a very big proponent of pet therapy. I first noticed the benefit of pets when I worked in different long term care facilities. Those with pets simply appeared to have calmer patients. Many of the old people were fascinated by the behaviour of the cat on one unit or by the gold fish on another. Their conversations and interest were sparked by these non human friends who served as a focal point for their attention and communication.
Later I was impressed to see pets making their 'rounds' in hospitals where their good natures and calming influence were acknowleged by the welcome given by staff and patients to these friends who brightened their lives and reduced their pain
In the movie "28 days" an alcoholic wanting a relationship is advised to first keep a plant. It's been a common recommendation for those in recovery to have a pet but in the movie the humor was that this fellow was so self absorbed that he was recommended instead to start with a plant. Pets take many of us out of ourselves.
Also they serve to organize disorganized lives. I enjoy hearing patients who have added a dog especially to their lives describe the exercise the dog is giving them. My cat literally tells me when she feels it's time for us to go to bed and unfortunately is equally exacting regarding wake up time.
I've often had fish in my waiting rooms because they have a calming distracting influence that prepares people for discussing the more anxiety provoking aspects of their lives.
Not surprisingly my dentist has a wall size tank which he uses for the same reason, but clearly as a dentist he needed a bigger tank and bigger fish.
Studies have shown petting dogs lowers blood pressures, dog owners require less medical attention for stress related illness and clearly having pets can boost peoples mood and increase social interactions.
When I go for a walk in the park today no one is likely to talk to me but when I used to walk my dog everyone wanted to talk to him. That didn't mean that they wanted to talk to me but it did mean I gained the benefits of being part of a popular social circle.

No comments: