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Lending a Helping Paw

By Mark Kostich

(Page 3 of 3)

Since Bethany’s adventure, I have taken many other patients to share the same experience. Bethany helped show me the importance and clinical significance of pet therapy. Simply witnessing the component of touch in these instances was tremendously uplifting. The moment a small cat was placed into the hands of a patient one could see the true quality and magnitude of this type of therapeutic intimacy. For the patient, the animal offers unconditional love. It offers no opinion or criticisms or tells them what to do or think. Instead, it is a non-verbal, yet attentive new friend who returns love with an empathetic gaze.

Overall, “pet therapy” can dramatically help bolster morale, communication, self-esteem, the need to be needed and can even increase the quality of life in critically ill children. It is most important to first consult your doctor or patient care provider to decide what kind of animal contact is appropriate for your loved one. While a patient’s physical health should always take precedence, their mental health needs serious consideration, as well. Also, the animals used in pet therapy can be easily located such as dogs, cats, birds, rabbits and hamsters. And even if the patient’s immune system is unable to tolerate ANY direct animal contact, there are other alternatives like tropical fish, reptiles and frogs that have been used with similar results. I have even heard of hummingbird feeders being placed outside a sick boy’s window so that he could view them when the hummingbirds would come to drink.

Consider “pet therapy” to help give an ill child a sense of involvement, association, affection and the need to keep on trying. It can dramatically improve the child’s mental health and ease a parent’s caregiving burden.


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