Are you interested in being a Pet Therapy volunteer?
The Humane Society of Genesee County looking for volunteers who are interested in taking puppies and kittens to area assisted living facilities. Studies show that people that interact with animals have reduced stress, less pain and are able to heal faster than people who do not have animals in their lives. If this sounds like a volunteer position you’d like to explore, please review the requirements of what it takes to be this special person!
Requirements for volunteers who want to provide pet therapy:
- Must be an active Humane Society of Genesee County volunteer
- Must have a minimum of 10 documented HSGC volunteer hours
- Must be 18 years of age or older
- Must have a strong understanding of people who may be challenged
- Must have a valid Michigan Driver’s license
- Must attend the pet therapy volunteer training workshop (date TBA)
*To become a volunteer for HSGC, please go to the “Programs” and choose “Volunteering” from the drop down menu.
PET OWNERSHIP CAN HELP ONE’S HEALTH
Barry Miller M.D.
About five years ago an elderly woman in my practice came in for her annual physical appearing sad, tired and more than a little unkempt. This was not the way that I remembered her over the many previous years that I was her physician and I also couldn’t help but notice, as it is my specialty, that she had gained a considerable amount of weight since her last visit. She had a history of diabetes and high blood pressure, and now both of these problems had become much worse as a consequence of her weight gain. Up until now we had managed to keep these medical problems under good control. She told me that about three months earlier she lost her husband and that she misses him greatly. They had been married for nearly 40 years until he became ill. He was very ill for a couple of years before he died and she had to be wife and caregiver of her husband during that time. She didn’t mind that and said that taking care of him had given her life an important purpose and made her feel needed. Their children had grown up and moved away, and so her husbands care and comfort depended solely on her. Now, since his passing, she admitted that had given her purpose, contentment and joy. She had entered into a deep depression sleeping poorly at night, being constantly tired, and had become reclusive, self negligent and self-destructive with overeating. She stopped caring about herself and apathetic, she started to miss taking her medications and didn’t care to continue the diet she had been on for some time.
A few months before this time, my wife and I had acquired a Yellow Labrador Retriever. My wife traveled a great deal in those days because she worked as a consultant for a company that required it of her. After we had ‘Lucy’, I noticed that when my wife was gone, I was far less lonely than “prior to Lucy”. Also, during my ‘down time’, I was more apt to take the dog for a walk on the golf course or play with Lucy rather than sit around watching the Lobotomy Box (aka TV). Having Lucy around provided the opening of the two -way street that allows love and caring to pass between two creatures even though these creatures may be so vastly different in a multitude of ways. The effect I realized was “therapeutic” for both of us; dog and man.
With this in mind, I asked my patient if she liked animals. She said that she used to have dogs and she loved dogs. But she had not owned one for many years because she had become too busy and too immersed in her husband’s problems to share herself with an animal. This was my opening. I suggested to her that she might consider someday going down to the Humane Society to look at the animals there, and maybe even to volunteer some of her time. She had the time now, right?
Her follow-up appointment with me was about a month later. I entered the exam room and became very pleased at what I saw in the improvement of her overall medical and psychological condition. She smiled and looked happy and was far better kept. She had lost approximately 15 pounds and her blood sugars, as well as her blood pressures were now under control. She was also sleeping better and had more happiness in her life as she was much more motivated to do things and be more productive with her life. It turned out that she took my advice and went to the Humane Society of Genesee County and became quickly attached to young mutt and brought him home. The dog was already housetrained, well behaved and trustworthy. Of course she admitted that she still missed her husband a great deal, but the dog filled the empty heart that was left behind after he died. Her life was certainly much better with her dog in it. Without additional medications and other medical treatments, her health problems had been brought under perfect control.
Since then I have seen the need to recommend “pet therapy” from the Humane Society to many of my patients. Over the years some of them took the advice of adopting a pet. I know of none of those who, after they acquired the pet, did not find that their life was improved by it having a very positive effect on their health. I have found that, especially with my older patients, there are many benefits derived from adopting a pet. It provides a companion that they can talk to, give love to and be loved backed. I noticed that my overweight patients seem to not need to find their solace in food and end up snacking less. Often, fairly quickly, blood sugars fall to more normal levels as do their blood pressures and cholesterol levels. Many people out of boredom, loneliness and depression, seek relief and satisfaction by consuming high caloric foods. These folks are now less of a victim of these feelings since they have a pet to share their life with. I’ve also noticed improvements in the occurrence of gastrointestinal ailments, insomnia, chronic fatigue and respiratory infections and many other conditions just simply as a result of the therapeutic relationship the have developed with their pets.
I am a physician and a scientist and as such I am able to assure you that there are many valid research studies over the years that have proven the multitude of positive therapeutic benefits from pet ownership and “pet therapy”. Having a relationship with a pet is not just beneficial for senior citizens as it has also been demonstrated to promote a range of medical and emotional improvements for people of all ages.
If you would like to read more on this subject I would suggest: The Importance of Animal Companionship, Perdue University Press, www.vet.perdue.edu/chab.