Groomed for Service

If you’ve ever had a pet, you know how happy they can make us. A lick on the face or cuddling up on your lap is enough to put a smile on your face. However, scientific research is showing that our pets can also make us healthier.

This could explain the use of animals, primarily dogs and cats, in settings such as hospitals, nursing homes, and schools. Animals can also act as therapists themselves or facilitate therapy even when they’re not dogs or cats. Horses have also become popular therapists for people with disabilities.

There are many stories about how animals have helped individuals with depression, as well as improving overall health. It is mostly evident with dogs.

In fact, dogs have been proven so effective at helping combat anxiety, stress, and depression, that there are several organizations dedicated to training service dogs for those suffering from Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), particularly veterans.

Dogs just aren’t used as service animals, but can also be used as therapy or comfort animals. Therapy dogs operate in non-emergency environments like visiting the elderly or sick in their homes or hospice care.

On the other hand, comfort dogs work in emergency situations and become a calming presence to those impacted by a disaster or incident. You can read how real lives in Washington are comforted by dogs when tragedy strikes their community in our “Comforting During Disasters” blog.

Here are few ways dogs can help in stressful situations:

  • Responsibility for their well-being. Dogs need attention, need to be fed, need to be walked and this responsibility help motivates us.
  • Provide unconditional love. Dogs don’t judge us and love us despite any flaws we think we might have.
  • Prevent panic attacks. Just having a trusted companion around can often be a calming factor and prevent an attack.
  • Can help us stay connected. With the loss of interpersonal connections in today’s technological society, dogs can become a resource.

If you want to find out more about getting a service, comfort or therapy dog, here are some sites to start you on your search and additional resources:

Assistance Dogs International (ADI)

Canine Companions for Independence

Guide Dogs of America

FEMA – A Beginner’s Guide to Comfort Dogs

Robb Mayberry

Robb Mayberry is a Public Information Officer for the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services. He has assisted in the response and recovery efforts with some of California’s worst disasters, including the San Refugio Oil Spill, the Valley and Butte Wildfires, Aliso Canyon Gas Leak, Erskine Fire, and the Winters Storms of 2017. Prior to public service, he spent 25 years managing the public and media relations for some of Northern California’s largest healthcare organizations.

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