Tonawanda News — The reason why animal assisted therapy works is simple. Pet caregivers already know that animals are non-judgmental offering unconditional love.
“Such acceptance reduces stress, which leads to a reduction in cortisol, and subsequent lowering of blood pressure and increase in serotonin,” Rose said.
Many clients in animal-assisted therapy sessions have had pets, especially dogs, when they were healthy and living independently. Providing a dog, even for a short time, offers much comfort Rose added.
TAWNY promotes the idea and use of animals, especially dogs, as a vector of therapy. With almost a dozen founding members, each of them participates in different capacities. Some take their therapy dogs on what you would typically think for a working therapy animal: visiting facilities like local hospitals, senior living complexes and nursing homes. Others attend events at universities and colleges like the University at Buffalo’s Stress Relief Week, where massages, free snacks and — you guessed it — therapy dogs are there to reduce stress during final exam week. Oh, to be in college again.
TAWNY does not certify or train animals to work in a therapeutic setting but does maintain a private database of therapy dog teams certified by various organizations. This allows them to match a team when they are contacted by agencies, hospitals, schools and other organizations. TAWNY serves as a central informational resource and membership is free.
“One of our central goals is to provide people with the information they need to understand therapy animals,” Rose said.
Once that is accomplished the organization can connect them with the resources they need to achieve the goal of getting their own animal trained and certified or have a therapy team visit their location.
“Any animal who becomes a certified therapy animal must have an innate calm disposition to begin with. We cannot teach that — they must also love to interact with people,” she said.
Rose added that the knowledge and use of therapy dogs in particular has exploded in the past two years. Emails and calls from more and more organizations requesting therapy dogs, and the presentations that she does with her therapy dog, Sophia has increased each year.
For more information on TAWNY visit www.therapyanimalswny.org or our Facebook page Critter Companions by Kenny Coogan.