Imagine living in a new city/town/state, where you know no one. The only person you know is yourself and in my case, my husband. Your work schedule is part time, and outside of work there isn’t much to explore. The shopping is very little, it is too cold outside to go for walks in the park, and there are no friends to call up to go out for a beer because the town doesn’t have bars. All there is to do is clean the house, read, exercise, and cook. You can’t even find places to volunteer or understand how this new location works. On top of this, you suffer from anxiety and experience extreme loneliness. Your husband works everyday for eight hours and you sit by yourself just waiting for his return. You wait by the door just like a little dog would. I would hear my husband’s car pull into the driveway and I would go greet him at the door. When we would be reunited, I would jump on him and hug him. Give him kisses. Just like a little dog would.
On the weekends, if he left to go be with his friends, or leave for extended time for work, I would get sad. My anxiety and depression would sneak up. Then my eating disorder would arise. My exercise addiction would rear its ugly head. I wouldn’t know what to do. Sometimes I would go back home to be with my family and friends so I wouldn’t be alone while he was gone. When we would be reunited, I would jump on him and hug him. Give him kisses. Just like a little dog would.
Even before we got married my husband and I always talked about our first dog. What kind it would be, what we would name it, the bowties we would buy for it, how we would take it everywhere with us. After the wedding, I got puppy fever instead of baby fever. I was so lonely and use to having animals in the house that I didn’t know what to do. We kept talking about it but the expense was so great. Many purebreds were thousands of dollars, we had a weight limit, and the deposit for the dog was expensive. Finding a small dog when you are use to big dogs is a challenge. After a few months I decided to just give up. Give up on the dog search and live without one. That didn’t last long. This time we decided to rescue a dog. During a slow day at work I went about researching small breed rescues. I then stumbled upon who would become our future dog. I felt a calling, something deep inside me that said this is your dog. Within days we were meeting the dog, his foster mom and had a trial week. That week was so lovely. I knew within the first day he was meant to be with us.
I never would have thought that this little dog would bring so much joy into my life. That is would be more than just our child. This dog has helped my recovery. Our puppy has decreased my anxiety and loneliness. I now come home to him and not an empty house. Here is someone who needs me and loves me (besides my husband). I have a buddy to go to the park with when my husband can’t. I have another body for when I do yoga at home. I pet him, walk him, take care of him and everything that was bothering me settles. My husband can go on a weekend trip or work trip and I don’t get anxious or loneliness or have to plan a trip back home. I have an animal that plays with me and listens to me. It can be said that our dog, Winston, has become my therapy dog. He waits for me, and jumps on me when I walk in the doors. Winston licks me and looks up at me with those adoring eyes. Just like a dog does.
In mental health settings, assisted living facilities, nursing homes, even schools, pet therapy is a popular form of treatment. Pet therapy is also known animal interventions. It can be broken down into animal assisted therapy or animal assisted activity. Animal assisted therapy is where a clinical practitioner uses an animal in a treatment session to help meet treatment goals. Animal assisted activity is when an animal is used in recreation or activity to enhance a person’s quality of life (Fine, 2006).
The reason pet therapy is gaining popularity is because people who cannot make therapeutic gains in treatment make gains when an animal is integrated into treatment. It is believed that the reason animal therapy works is because of the affect an animal can have on the individual. Animals can serve as a buffer in a therapy session. When the session is getting intense the individual can touch the animal or even talk to the animal and share his or her feelings. It even is used as a positive reinforcement. If an individual had a bad experience in a session or with a certain type of treatment, using an animal of their liking can help them continue with treatment (Fine, 2006). Animals have a calming effect on the body as well. Animals, especially stroking, is shown to decrease heart rate and blood pressure.
With all this in mind, if you or someone you know needs a little happiness or stress relief, stop by your local shelter. Pet some animals. Not only will they brighten your day, you will brighten theirs as well.
Fine, Aubrey H. Handbook on Animal Assisted Therapy: Theoretical Foundations and Guidelines. 2006.
Winston posing on the couch
When are we gonna do downward dog?
I LOVE belly rubs!