4.10. PAWS = Pet-Assisted Visitation Volunteer Services

Meet Frida, the most cosmopolitan, well-read dog ever.
Pets provide more than entertainment, companionship or improvement in literacy (when kids read to dogs--at home or at library events). Pet therapy is an actual thing, though not in a Frida = Freudian psychoanalyst type of way. Rogerian psychiatrist, maybe:
Human: "I'm having a bad day."
Pup, speaking with soulful eyes: "Tell me more about your bad day."

The therapeutic value of pets has been extensively studied, and evidence shows that animals can directly influence a person’s mental and physical well-being. Having a pet, or spending time with a trained "therapy pet" in a hospital, treatment center or long-term facility can decrease anxiety and enhance mood in many patients.  

Penzi, devoted therapy dachscund!

Pet therapy has proven especially effective in people receiving cancer treatment and those with anxiety, cardiovascular diseases, PTSD, dementia, or residing in long-term care facilities.  The simple act of petting a cat or dog lowers blood pressure, with a decrease in systolic blood pressure of 7.1 mmHg and 8.1 mmHg in diastolic blood pressure (compared to other quiet, resting activities), according to Townsend & Morgan's Psychiatric Mental Health Nursing.

While a reasonable level of exposure to allergens and germs strengthens the immune system and decreases hyper-sensitivity reactions (e.g. allergies), hand washing before and after contact with a pet is still strongly recommended.

Though owning a pet doesn’t make one immune to illness, according to Townsend & Morgan, pet owners are statistically healthier than those who don’t own pets, with fewer minor health problems, fewer visits to the doctor, less required medications, and fewer risk factors for heart disease, such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol.

Of course, if you're not an animal person, petting Hazel may not lower your blood pressure, and having an animal is, needless to say, a tremendous responsibility, walks, vet visits and all. As with many other things in life, one must weigh all costs, benefits and cuteness.

Meet Hazel, real life therapy Corgi.

She lives in Boston--can you tell?


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