It’s common knowledge that pets, and especially dogs, can help cheer up anyone who needs it. Dogs have the power to comfort us when we are down and have the power to ease the pain. They are also great listeners when we need to talk and most of all, they never judge us. As a matter of fact, they always show unconditional love and they are utterly confidential.
Therapy dogs also visit hospitals to comfort patients of all ages to show them love and give them the chance to pet them. It is proven that petting a dog will lower heart rate and blood pressure, as well as releasing some hormones and neurotransmitters, hence decreasing the stress level. Their furry friend will help lift moods and will bring smiles to their faces.
That’s why dogs are trained to become therapists for people who suffered any kind of trauma. In the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy, several therapy dogs have visited Newtown, Connecticut, to help deal the survivors and their family with the horrific events of this day.
Dating back as far as the 18th century, therapy dogs were used in England to give comfort to people suffering from mental illness. During World War II, a little female Yorkshire Terrier named Smoky, was quite popular among injured soldiers recovering in a hospital.
She had been found abandoned in a combat zone in the New Guinea jungle and an American Corporal named William A. Wynne bought her from a GI and they became inseparable. After he fell ill, his friends brought Smoky to the hospital to keep Wynne company. The little dog proved to be such a hit with other patients that she was allowed to go on rounds, for the next 12 years, as a therapy dog.
In 1976, an American nurse named Elaine Smith, founded the organization Therapy Dog International (TDI) after she saw that the chaplain’s golden retriever had a positive influence on patients when they came to visit the hospital. The TDI was the first national registry of therapy dogs and has now over 24,000 registered dog/handler teams working for the association.
But not any dog can become a therapy dog. These special dogs have to be friendly, socially open, kind, patient and confident in any given situation. That’s why dogs have to begin training at a young age so they can develop the qualities needed to become good therapy dogs. With the right training, many dogs can help people deal with tough times.
Below is a video of a training for therapy dogs. You will find out how the training is done and maybe it will help you understand the work behind the job of therapy dogs. They are really heroic and the amount of good that these wonderful dogs are providing is simply amazing!
Photo credit: nirbhao/Flickr