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Pet Therapy

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Marie-Claire Sabourin, owner of A Votre Santé, is a Winnipeg-based massage therapist and bodywork practitioner during the da.

Marie-Claire Sabourin, owner of A Votre Sant?is a Winnipeg-based massage therapist and bodywork practitioner during the day. However, at night she's at the other end of the leash with her two Siberian huskies, Igloo and Tamarack, both certified pet therapists who visit the elderly and infirm.

Marie-Claire and her huskies graduated from the St. John's Ambulance Therapy Dog program in 1999, which certifies dogs and their masters as pet therapists. She volunteers with her therapy dogs by visiting senior residences or personal care homes on a weekly basis.

National studies confirm the therapeutic effects of pets upon humans as they demonstrate that physical and emotional health can be improved with human-animal interaction.

"Pets make good therapists because they play the same role as human ones do, they provide comfort, companionship, and someone to talk to and confide in," says Alan Beck, a professor and a pioneer in the field of the healing power of pets.

What is Pet Therapy?

Pet Therapy is a recognized volunteer service that consists of a certified owner and certified therapy dog in which the owner brings their dog to a person's residence or an institution to provide interaction.

Generally, pet therapists are dogs who are calm, friendly, obedient, and polite. Therapy dogs work in hospitals, institutions, schools, mental health facilities, personal care homes, and nursing homes.

Pet therapy visits help lift the spirits of individuals and lessens feelings of depression, loneliness, and isolation that are one of the most serious problems of the elderly, the sick, and the isolated. Therapy dogs are also useful in physical therapy as brushing, petting, or throwing a ball encourages use of hands and arms, and provides low impact stretching exercise. People become more active and responsive both during and after visiting with animals.

In recent years, health professionals rely more on pet therapy as a valuable aid in reaching out to the elderly, the infirm, and to ill or abused children. Specialists in the field of pet therapy find that in addition to dogs, other animals including cats, fish, birds, reptiles, rabbits, and guinea pigs are valuable healers.

St. John Ambulance Therapy Dogs are a free community service. A special pet-visiting program is available for those who do not have a pet and are interested in having pet therapy visits. If you are interested in an in-home pet visit or would like more information about the Therapy Dog program phone (613) 236-7461 in Canada.

Health Benefits of Pet Therapy

  • Lowers anxiety levels
  • Lowers blood pressure and heart rate
  • Lifts the spirits and decreases feelings of loneliness and isolation
  • Lessens depression
  • Stimulates communication (verbal and non-verbal)
  • Provides therapeutic touch
  • Encourages physical activity
  • Provides emotional support to patients and caregivers
  • Offers affection and unconditional love
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