The magic of pawfect love can instill unimaginable spirits in the most depressed souls. As they say even the darkest cloud has a silver lining… it’s just that we have to spot it. And Animal Angels Foundation, a Mumbai based organization is helping millions get that spark back to be happier and healthier by providing Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT). Even a small helping paw can make the biggest difference.
Geeta is a typical child with severe Autism. She now smiles at people who matter the most to her – mother, teacher and the therapist. Her eye contact has improved and she shows inclination to communicate… just after a few sessions of Animal Assisted Therapy. Shekar, a resident of Cheshire Home has been on a wheelchair since the past twentyfive years. His hands and legs are immobile; he was depressed most of the time and he hardly got out of his room, until Angel, a two-year-old Golden Retriever walked into his life. He now looks forward to her weekend visits so that they can play ball, tug of war and he can feed her biscuits and brush her, all of which help him develop his fine and gross motor skills. He smiles and talks to Angel and says, “She is the best friend I ever had!” Angel works as a co-therapist for Animal Angels Foundation, a Mumbai based organization, which provides animalassisted therapy to diverse population.
Animal Angels Foundation is a group of clinical psychologists who work with trained animals, chiefly dogs, to help people and children improve the quality of their lives. And they are certified practitioners of what is now recognised as animal assisted therapy (AAT). It is one of the few organisations in India working professionally in this field. Angel, who is the first therapy dog of this organization is also the inspiration behind the name Animal Angels.
It is ably run by Rohini Fernandes and Radhika Nair, who are clinical psychologists, certified practitioners of Animal-Assisted Therapy as well as professional dog trainers. Today, Animal Angels Foundation has 10 therapy dogs and one trained therapy cat. These fourlegged doctors help people learn new skills, speed up their recovery process and help them cope with life’s day-to-day challenges such as loss, stress, loneliness and illness. They work with a wide range of individuals in the areas of developmental disabilities (like autism, cerebral palsy), psychiatric disorders (like schizophrenia, depression), physical disabilities, physical illnesses and behavioural/emotional problems. All words fall short to express the positive impact of animal therapy on patients’ recovery.
What makes animal-assisted therapy different from conventional therapies is that therapy animals have a way of accepting human beings without qualification.
The warm playful presence of these therapy pets also helps to lower anxiety and increase the comfort levels in a person, which is especially effective with withdrawn, and uncommunicative persons. Sometimes people who suffer from a mental illness or emotional problems tend to focus on themselves. Therapy animals help them refocus themselves on their environment because, rather than thinking and talking about themselves and their problems, they watch and talk to and about the animals. Such flourishing companionships brings loads of positive changes, which can be broadly classified into :
- Increase in interactions among group members.
- Increase in attention skills.
- Reduction in aggression.
- Increasing self-esteem.
- Reducing anxiety.
- Reducing loneliness.
- Developing leisure/recreation.
- Improved willingness to be involved in a group activity.
- Improved interactions with others.
- Improved interactions with staff.
- Increased exercise.
- Improved fine motor skills.
- Improved wheelchair skills.
- Improved standing balance.
- Increased vocabulary.
- Aid in long- or short-term memory.
- Improved knowledge of concepts such as size, colour, etc.
- Incidental learning.
How therapy pets work?
The therapy pets regularly visit places like hospitals, schools, orphanages, old age homes, etc to provide special therapy sessions. The organization also specialise in training therapy dogs for those who may want to have a therapy pet at home. The organization jointly works with other professionals such as a speech pathologist, occupational therapist, physiotherapist, psychotherapists etc and does pre-therapy, mid-therapy and post-therapy evaluation. It’s a pawfect way to bring smile on those who are not that lucky and our little paws are doing just what they are capable of – spreading love and care all around. Kudos Animal Angels Foundation!
5 Medication Perils
- Do not leave tablets and ointments in places where your pet can reach as they can swallow them and become sick.
- Do not use human medicines for your pet as dosage and application may vary.
- Do not use old pet medicines as they can get spoiled over time.
- Do not use your own creams or oils to cure skin ailments in your pet as they can lick and ingest it.
- Do not medicate your pet with your own prescriptions. For your pet’s health, always consult your veterenanian.