Citadel colum­nist PRIYA PODUVAL in­tro­duces read­ers to the con­cept of PET THER­APY and its ad­van­tages, which cure hu­man phys­i­cal dis­abil­i­ties and men­tal ill­nesses.

Citadel - - CONTENTS - Priya Poduval is the co-founder and owner of The Peppy Paws Pet Re­sort, a pop­u­lar pet board­ing fa­cil­ity in Pune. It is well known among Pune’s pet par­ents for pro­vid­ing the best fa­cil­i­ties and a fun ex­pe­ri­ence to the pets in their care. For ad­vice on pets

Pet ex­pert PRIYA PODUVAL in­tro­duces read­ers to the con­cept of PET THER­APY and its ad­van­tages

Pet Ther­apy, or An­i­mal-As­sisted Ther­apy (AAT) is a guided in­ter­ac­tion be­tween a per­son and a trained an­i­mal. It is of­ten con­fused with An­i­mal-As­sisted Ac­tiv­i­ties (AAA). AAT is ba­si­cally a for­mal and struc­tured set of ses­sions that help peo­ple reach specic goals in their treat­ment, whereas AAA in­volves more ca­sual meet­ings in which an an­i­mal and its han­dler in­ter­act with one or more peo­ple for com­fort or recre­ation. The main pur­pose of AAT or pet ther­apy is to help some­one re­cover from, or cope with, a health or men­tal dis­or­der. It can help re­duce blood pres­sure and im­prove over­all car­dio­vas­cu­lar health, stress lev­els, anx­i­ety, l one­li­ness, bore­dom and de­pres­sion. It can also in­crease per­sonal well-be­ing, self-es­teem, and im­prove so­cial skills. The an­i­mals that work at pro­vid­ing ther­apy also give so­cial sup­port and com­pan­ion­ship. Most an­i­mals that are used for this kind of ther­apy are pets that come from happy homes. An an­i­mal’s owner and han­dler must also un­dergo train­ing and eval­u­a­tion to en­sure a pos­i­tive ex­pe­ri­ence. AAT has strin­gent rules to en­sure that do­mes­ti­cated pets are screened be­fore they are certied an­i­mal an­gels. The first step in pet ther­apy is the se­lec­tion of a suit­able an­i­mal. Many groups and or­ga­ni­za­tions train and con­nect vol­un­teer own­ers and pets with healthcare providers. Be­fore an an­i­mal and its han­dler can par­tic­i­pate in pet ther­apy, the both of them as a team have to full cer­tain re­quire­ments. The pet should be vac­ci­nated, phys­i­cally able, and free of dis­ease. It should be obe­di­ent to en­sure proper an­i­mal con­trol. The pet par­ent or han­dler should also un­dergo some train­ing on ef­fec­tive and sen­si­tive in­ter­ac­tions with peo­ple. Once a team of an an­i­mal and a han­dler is ap­proved, an­i­mals are as­signed for ther­apy based on a per­son’s specic needs. The an­i­mal’s type, breed, size, age, and nat­u­ral be­hav­iour will de­ter­mine where it will be most help­ful. The most com­mon an­i­mals used in pet ther­apy are dogs and cats. How­ever, th­ese days, sh, guinea pigs, horses, and other an­i­mals that are friendly, so­cial, and free of dis­ease can also be used. Based on the ther­a­peu­tic goals of a per­son’s treat­ment plan, an an­i­mal is cho­sen. Why do peo­ple opt for pet ther­apy? Well, hu­man be­ings are com­plex crea­tures with a unique set of likes and dis­likes. When they are ill or old, they reach a stage in their life when the in­ter­ac­tion with another hu­man be­ing just can­not elicit a pos­i­tive re­ac­tion. There is just plain re­sis­tance or numb­ness. Dened ob­jec­tives are an im­por­tant part of ther­apy, this kind

of ther­apy is in it­self some­thing very novel and the sound of it is like a trip to Dis­ney­land. It builds on the pre-ex­ist­ing hu­man-an­i­mal bond and in­ter­act­ing with a friendly pet can help many phys­i­cal and men­tal is­sues, im­prov­ing the over­all psy­cho­log­i­cal state. The doc­tor or ther­a­pist man­ag­ing the treat­ment will sug­gest pet ther­apy. A trained han­dler, of­ten the pet’s owner, takes the an­i­mal to ev­ery meet­ing and works un­der the doc­tor’s or ther­a­pist’s di­rec­tion, in or­der to reach the pa­tient’s specic goals. Of­ten, the han­dlers, who are mostly the pet’s par­ent, work as vol­un­teers. Once the han­dler, pa­tient and pa­tient’s fam­ily and doc­tor have dis­cussed the course of ther­apy, there is noth­ing that can stop them from ad­min­is­ter­ing it to the pa­tient. Ma­jor­ity of the peo­ple who opt for AAT are those who are un­der­go­ing chemo­ther­apy or ter­mi­nally ill. AAT is help­ful for peo­ple who are old and young, liv­ing in long-term care fa­cil­i­ties. In ad­di­tion, it helps to cure men­tal and health disor­ders, such as post-trau­matic stress dis­or­der and heart strokes. Also, it has been ob­served that peo­ple re­gain their mo­tor skills by ex­er­cis­ing with the pet. When peo­ple are ill and have med­i­cal pro­ce­dures, there is less anx­i­ety if a pet is present. Peo­ple who have sen­sory dis­abil­i­ties can some­times com­mu­ni­cate more eas­ily with an an­i­mal. There is no fear of judg­ment, nor is there any ir­ri­ta­tion shown by such an­i­mals. This en­cour­ages more in­ter­ac­tion with healthcare providers and other peo­ple. Th­ese days, there is a boom in AAT. No amount of tech­nol­ogy can re­place touch and the un­con­di­tional love of an an­i­mal. Chil­dren, who are our fu­ture, seem to benet greatly from AAT. If they have prob­lems in­ter­act­ing with other kids, the an­i­mal pro­vides them with a few non-stress­ful mo­ments and their own space, wherein there is no judg­ment. Also, pet ther­apy helps to de­crease the feel­ings of iso­la­tion and alien­ation among kids. It helps them in­crease their self-condence and re­duce their self­con­scious­ness. They are en­cour­aged to com­mu­ni­cate. For those chil­dren who have trou­ble learn­ing, AAT in­creases their fo­cus bet­ter, im­proves their lit­er­acy skills, and en­cour­ages the love of read­ing and learn­ing in gen­eral. There are few risks to con­sider when opt­ing for AAT, the ma­jor ones be­ing safety and san­i­ta­tion. Those who are al­ler­gic to an­i­mal dan­der may have re­ac­tions dur­ing pet ther­apy. Some­times, hu­man in­jury can oc­cur when un­suit­able an­i­mals are used. The an­i­mal may also suf­fer in­jury or abuse when han­dled in­ap­pro­pri­ately. In some cases, peo­ple may be­come pos­ses­sive of the an­i­mals, thus be­com­ing an in­te­gral part of the pa­tient’s life. This can re­sult in low self-es­teem and de­pres­sion for the pa­tient. AAT is on the rise and it is a proven an­ti­dote that love need not al­ways come on two legs. Four can also help young chil­dren, the el­derly, and ev­ery­one in be­tween. Stroking a liv­ing crea­ture, whether hard-shelled or furry, can be benecial even for those who say they don’t like or fear an­i­mals. The act of car­ing for a liv­ing crea­ture seems to make all the dif­fer­ence.

Priya Poduval

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