By Mary Kate Somers
Whether they live, visit and or volunteer at The Shores, pets play a big role. Such is the case with Data, a 2-year-old Golden Doodle, who volunteers two days a week. This handsome guy brings joy to everyone he visits in Assisted Living, Healthcare, Memory Support and the Bridges. Data came by way of his owner, Samantha Gill, The Shores’ Healthcare social worker and is her daughter Addie’s service dog.
The dog came from 4 Paws for Ability in Xenia, Ohio, and unlike a therapy dog, is covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act. He is recertified yearly and carries that certification with him. Data attended six weeks of basic training at 4 Paws for Ability, then moved on to formal service dog training. Thanks to Addie’s Law, passed by the NJ Assembly, he can now ride on the school bus along with Addie.
PET THERAPY 101
Pets not only offer companionship and unconditional love, in fact, emerging research suggests they may have the ability to boost health and general well-being, especially in the elderly.
What is pet therapy?
Pet therapy, or animal-assisted therapy, is a type of therapy involving animals as a form of treatment. The goal may be to improve a patient’s social, emotional, or cognitive functioning.
Benefits of Pet Therapy
Research has revealed many benefits to pet therapy; some of which may include:
- Decreased blood pressure and stress
- Improved communication and reminiscence
- Many people who are normally unresponsive to other therapies may ‘brighten up’ and ‘chat’ with a pet.
- Pets may motivate and encourage the elderly to stay healthy and exercise, giving them a feeling of being ‘needed’.
- Motor skills may improve with the assistance of an animal trained for pet therapy.
How does it work?
The animals used in pet therapy must also:
- Be well socialized, as they will be meeting new people all the time.
- Have basic obedience skills.
- Understand how to interact with people using crutches, wheelchairs or other mobility aids.
Mary Kate Somers is Director of Community Life at The Shores.