Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Easing the Way in Therapy With the Aid of an Animal

We’ve all seen guide dogs that can direct blind people around obstacles and tell them when it is safe to cross the street. Perhaps you also know of guide dogs for the deaf, which can alert people to a ringing phone, a doorbell or a smoke alarm, or dogs that can warn people with epilepsy of an incipient seizure, giving them time to get to a safe place before they lose consciousness.

Dr. Marty Becker, veterinarian and author (with Danelle Morton) of “The Healing Power of Pets” (Hyperion, 2002), tells of a golden retriever named Dakota, who was able to warn his master, Mike Lingenfelter, that a heart attack was imminent and alert Mr. Lingenfelter to the need to leave a stressful situation and take preventive medication.

“This dog is leading me through life,” Mr. Lingenfelter told Dr. Becker. “All I’m doing is following the dog.”

In recent decades, there have been countless such stories of animals helping to improve and even preserve the lives of children and adults with all manner of diseases and disabilities. Trained dogs are being used to help keep children with autism safe and to break the “freeze” that can afflict people with Parkinson’s disease when they try to walk. And dogs, cats, bunnies and birds are often brought to schools and institutions, as well as to hospitals and nursing homes, where they help to relax and inspire residents and distract patients from their health problems.
Read the rest here.

1 comment:

sjgmore said...

I read an article in the New York Times a few years back about service animals, and was surprised to learn two things:

1. Miniature guide horses are becoming somewhat popular (though not at all common) among the blind, because, among other benefits, they live much longer than dogs.

2. A woman with a macaque that she drives with (among other activities) to help her cope with panic attacks lives eerily close to a city where I've seen a woman driving around with a monkey in her car.

For what it's worth.