The s.w.e.e.t. Life of Therapy Animals

A few weeks ago, Audrey’s Corner showcased pictures of pets from Sacred Heart University students. This week, we delve deeper into the power of therapy animals and how pets can be helpful in calming nerves and reducing stress.

Audrey found great comfort in animals, especially dogs, and therapy animals are great companions. A Harvard Health article titled “Therapy Offers Stress Relief at Work” states that since the 1980s, studies have
supported the idea that dogs and other pets have great health benefits for people. Furry (and feathered) companions are known to reduce anxiety, lower blood pressure and increase self-esteem.

Therapy dogs are trained as volunteers to provide support and comfort for those in schools, hospitals and assisted living centers. Typical therapy dog certifications test how well a dog reacts around other dogs
and listens to commands. A dog’s general temperament in different environments and among strangers is also tested.

S.w.e.e.t., Sacred Heart’s Student Wellness Education and Empowerment Team, hosts “Canine Help SHU?” sessions on campus where students can visit therapy dogs to help deal with the everyday stressors
of college life. During s.w.e.e.t.’s therapy dog sessions, you can cuddle and play with a furry friend!

Therapy dogs help many people, but it’s important to recognize the differences between therapy dogs and service dogs. Unlike therapy dogs, service dogs are trained for specific tasks to help disabled people. Where therapy dogs provide comfort, service dogs provide necessary accommodations and assistance.

It is important that therapy dogs follow the rules and regulations set in place for them so that service dogs are given the freedom, trust and respect they need to perform their jobs. When therapy dogs forego proper training and pose as service dogs, the general public loses trust in the authenticity of service dogs. This mistrust leads to many problems for disabled people who need their service dog for everyday life.

However, when doing their jobs correctly, both service dogs and therapy dogs provide great help within their communities, earning their spots as our best friends.

With this article is a picture of my dog, Ellie, who hopes to gain training as a therapy dog at Saint Barnabas Hospital. There, Ellie would provide comfort in the pediatric wing of the New Jersey hospital.

Make sure to check out s.w.e.e.t.’s therapy dog sessions on campus!

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