One of my greatest passions is animals, especially dogs (see a list of wonderful training, behavior and learning books on the Recommended Reading page).
It has been very exciting to note the emergence of an increasing number of service animal programs in the last several years. These are animals used to ease PTSD, detect seizures, help people with reduced mobility get around, reduce anxiety, help shy children come out of their shell and much more.
Here are three such programs that recently caught my eye.
Paws and Stripes is a non-profit that matches military veterans suffering from PTSD and traumatic brain injury with a service dog. But to keep veterans from having to pay $10,000 to $30,000 and sometimes up to $60,000 for a trained service dog, the dogs they use are rescues. Once a good match is made, the veterans and their dog receive the necessary training from the organization. I think it’s incredible that not only are they helping veterans enjoy better quality of life, they are also saving the life of a shelter dog. As they say on their site “We believe in saving lives, together, two at a time”. Learn more about the organization here.
Courthouse dogs are therapy dogs used to comfort and calm people who are called to testify in court (mostly children/victims of sexual abuse at the moment, I believe). More and more courtrooms are beginning to accept the use of these animals . I think it’s a wonderful way to support people in a very stressful situation. Dogs have a very calming influence and petting them releases oxytocin, a feel-good hormone, while alleviating stress.
Shelter reading program:
Several shelters have implemented this program, which involves children spending time reading to shelter dogs and cats to calm them and keep them company. It also helps the children improve their reading skills and gain confidence since their audience is completely non-judgemental. I think that’s a win-win!
These are just three ways that animals (in this case, dogs) and people are helping make the world a better, safer-feeling place.