Pet therapy is a professional service that uses animals (mostly dogs) to provide unconditional love and affection to patients with medical problems. The service is provided in hospitals, hospice care, nursing homes, schools, and in the homes of the elderly. The dogs are well trained to work in these environments and have to be disease free.
Research has shown that pet therapy or having a pet can reduce stress, lower blood pressure, improve mood, enhance social interaction, and even increase one’s life span.
Although dogs are mostly commonly used in pet therapy, to receive the therapeutic benefits of having a pet, it does not matter what type of pet you own. It can be a cat, dog, snake, fish, guinea pig, etc. The most important thing is that it’s a type of animal you enjoy and have an interest in.
When my grandfather was in the hospital, a pet therapist brought in a very large, very sweet Irish Wolfhound named “George” which coincidentally was also my grandfather’s name. I remember that my grandfather’s face lit up when George walked in the room and put both front paws on my Grandfather’s bed so he could be pet. George the dog provided George the grandfather with a few moments of unconditional love, affection, and cuteness, which remained long after George had to move on to another patient. My grandfather received lots of love and support from family and friends, but there’s just something that animals can provide that is so special and unique.
I experience this with my own cat Al. Al is an adorable, feisty, intelligent, soft gray Norwegian Forest Cat. Some say he has an attitude, but that’s what makes him so fun and special. Al provides my wife and I unlimited joy, affection, and entertainment. He knows when you’re sad, when you just want to chill, and when you’re trying to get important work done (which is the signal for him to do his best to disrupt you by walking across the computer keyboard or sticking his butt in your face).
Whatever your choice of pet, the therapeutic benefits are the same. If you don’t have a pet, go out and get one. If that’s not feasible, go visit a friend who has one. And remember to utilize the services of a pet therapist for loved one’s who are ill, disabled, or in recovery and need a boost of warmth and inspiration.
(Originally appeared on Examiner.com)