Royal Canin Canada is Passionate for Pets! Scientific evidence shows the numerous benefits pets bring to our lives – to their owners and also to society as a whole. This blog post is part of a series that showcases the important role pets play in peoples’ lives by providing companionship and support, and enabling social connections.
As an animal-assisted therapy specialist, it occurred to me how lucky I am to have this job, and to have animal therapy in my life. I feel like I’m nothing without my dog – and that I’m a better therapist because of her.
Let me explain. A few weeks ago, I met with Mrs. G, a client of the healthcare services offered by the rehabilitation centre where I work. She is 50 years old, with cerebral palsy, and has difficulty speaking. It’s hard to understand her when she tries to talk to us. She lives in a wheelchair and can hardly move.
For awhile now, I have been working with Mrs. G with the help of my two year old long-haired Dachshund, Colette. We are working Mrs. G’s fine motor skills by having her massage Colette, running her fingers through Colette’s fur. Mrs. G loves Colette, and she can even say her name clearly when she wants Colette beside her on the wheelchair’s small table. What’s funny, though, is that Mrs. G can’t say my name! With Colette by her side, she always has a big smile on her face. At the beginning of our therapy together, Mrs. G only liked cats – her relationship with Colette is a great success for us!
One morning, Mrs. G was having significant muscle spasms, much more than usual. At one point, she started sobbing, and we couldn’t comfort her. Even her trainers were unable to, and didn’t understand what was wrong. It was impossible to console her and to stop her tears.
I picked up Colette and put her on Mrs. G’s table. Colette moved closer to her and kissed her on the cheek. This surprised Mrs. G, and she started to laugh. The sobs ended, and the crisis was over! I later found out that earlier that morning, Mrs. G had a problem with her adapted transport, which was the cause of the distress. Colette had understood, and she knew what to do for Mrs. G. We were speechless, and so happy to see Mrs. G in a better mood.
Many people will say dogs aren’t real therapists, but what I saw that day demonstrated the absolute opposite. Colette felt Mrs. G’s sorrow, and better than us humans, knew what to do to make her feel better. Every person working in the centre is devoted, caring, passionate, and always alert to the needs of the patients – but that morning, an animal bested us humans.
Since that day, my feelings have changed. I have never underestimated the virtues of my four-legged friends, quite the contrary. Today, I can confidently say that to be an excellent pet therapy specialist, I need a strong partner like Colette who is in synch with the people I accompany on their journey towards well-being.
Without my dog, I’d be just like a race car driver without a car. Still talented, but unable to do my best work. Every day as I watch my dog interact with my clients, I learn from them and it helps me become better at my job – and better as a person. I couldn’t excel without these people and without my dog.
Thank you to Mrs. G, and to my Colette, for enabling me to experience such great moments.
Never again without my dog!
Sylvie is a nutrition advocate and animal-assisted therapy specialist who also breeds cats and judges all-breed cat shows. Humans and animals are an important part of her life.