Meet 8 Truly Amazing Therapy Animals

10 Nov

By Dr. Becker

Animal-Assisted-TherapyWhile dogs and cats are the most commonly involved animals in Animal Assisted Therapy, AAT can also include horses, rabbits, hedgehogs, llamas, pigs, skunks, snakes, and even spiders (including tarantulas, which have been used for therapy in people with autism).

Below are eight examples of therapy animals and the lives they’ve touched.

1. Rojo the Therapy Llama and Napoleon the Therapy Alpaca

Rojo and Napoleon have made more than 800 therapy visits to hospitals, rehabilitation facilities, and schools near their home in Vancouver, Washington. Only 14 llamas are registered as therapy animals in the US.

2. Oscar the Therapy Cat

The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) reported the story of Oscar, a cat that resided at the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Providence, Rhode Island and could predict when residents were about to die. Oscar would curl up next to patients within hours of their deaths, not budging until they had passed. According to NEJM:

His mere presence at the bedside is viewed by physicians and nursing home staff as an almost absolute indicator of impending death, allowing staff members to adequately notify families. Oscar has also provided companionship to those who would otherwise have died alone.

For his work, he is highly regarded by the physicians and staff at Steere House and by the families of the residents whom he serves.”

3. Spartacus, Akita Therapy Dog

Spartacus was among the first on scene after the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newton, Connecticut, and he remained there for months afterward offering support to students, responders, and staff.

Spartacus was so helpful in the wake of tragedy that Connecticut government officials passed a law mandating that crisis victims have access to therapy dogs within 24 hours.

4. Hector, Pit Bull Therapy Dog

Hector is one of the pit bulls rescued from Michael Vick’s dogfighting operation in 2007. He is now a trained therapy dog who visits schools to help children learn about compassion toward animals.

5. Lexy, German Shepard Therapy Dog

Lexy supports members of the military at Fort Bragg, including those with post-war stress and trauma. She’s earned the rank of lieutenant colonel.

6. Buttercup, Therapy Pig

Buttercup is a Vietnamese pot-bellied pig who visits special-needs kids in San Francisco schools, alongside speech pathologist Lois Brady. Together, the team helps children with autism to improve social skills, and one severely autistic boy is said to have spoken to his classmates for the first time after a visit with Buttercup.

7. Elsa, Pit Bull Therapy Dog

Elsa was abused and neglected before she was rescued by a new owner who registered her for a pet visitation program. Elsa, whose own back legs are barely functional, is fitted with a special cart that allows her to make visits with patients in long-term care along with those suffering from spinal cord injuries.

8. Xander, Pug Therapy Dog

Xander had an accident that required both of his eyes to be removed, but that doesn’t stop him from bringing joy and love to others, including victims of child abuse.


Popular CE Courses on Animal Assisted Therapy

This is the first course in a three part series and includes the story of Deirdre Rand’s journey with her animal companions and the lessons learned from the challenges and rewards of those relationships. Also discussed are temperament, socialization and training; the role of the neurohormone oxytocin in strengthening the human-companion animal bond; the founding of the three major organizations which register volunteer handler/therapy teams, along with the contributions of key historic figures in developing animal-assisted therapy as we know it today; examples of animal-assisted interventions with dogs, cats and other animals; and attributes of a great therapy animal and a great handler.
In Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT) the human-animal bond is utilized to help meet therapeutic goals and reach individuals who are otherwise difficult to engage in verbal therapies. AAT is considered an emerging therapy at this time, and more research is needed to determine the effects and confirm the benefits. Nevertheless, there is a growing body of research and case studies that illustrate the considerable therapeutic potential of using animals in therapy. AAT has been associated with improving outcomes in four areas: autism-spectrum symptoms, medical difficulties, behavioral challenges, and emotional well-being. This course is designed to provide therapists, educators, and caregivers with the information and techniques needed to begin using the human-animal bond successfully to meet individual therapeutic goals. This presentation will focus exclusively on Animal Assisted Therapy and will not include information on other similar or related therapy.

Professional Development Resources is approved to offer continuing education by the American Psychological Association (APA); the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC ACEP #5590); the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB Provider #1046, ACE Program); the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA Provider #3159); the Florida Boards of Social Work, Mental Health Counseling and Marriage and Family Therapy (#BAP346), Psychology & School Psychology (#50-1635); the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker & MFT Board (#RCST100501); the South Carolina Board of Professional Counselors & MFTs (#193); and the Texas Board of Examiners of Marriage & Family Therapists (#114) and State Board of Social Worker Examiners (#5678).

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Posted by on November 10, 2015 in General


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