Image by Ochir-Erdene Oyunmedeg

Therapy Visits

Notice:  There are many in our communities who could benefit from the heartwarming connection that animals offer in these challenging times.  We follow strict protocols and infection prevention guidelines  on all visits including mask wearing, hygiene and animal cleanliness.  
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Who do we visit?

Seniors

 

For some seniors that we visit, we may be their only visitors.  We help them feel cared for, seen, and valued as honored members of our community.  We love hearing seniors reminisce about past pets, early years on farms or even growing up with animals in other countries - we’re all ears to hear the details and see the big smiles that accompany these special stories.  

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Veterans

 

We offer our deep gratitude to our veterans.  Our visits bring delight to those who have given so much.  

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Complex Needs Communities

 

For our complex needs communities, calm, regulated animal interactions can have an amazing effect on minds, hearts and nervous systems.  For many, this quiet more intimate animal activity can offer enrichment and cognitive boosting in a welcome and soothing way.  In scholastic settings, we visit students with Specialized Academic Instruction and IEP (Individualized Education Program) needs.  Our animal interactions are a joy to those students with visual, auditory and orthopedic impairments who aren’t able to join in in other activities.

Youth Homes/Shelters/Centers

 

At youth supporting facilities, we strive to educate and create enthusiasm as well as simply give kids the opportunity to cuddle a non-judgmental creature.  We so often see excitement bubbling over as children and teens learn about different animals and feel great pride in holding and caring for living beings during our visits.  We’ve inspired many kids to put their energy into having their very own pet to care for one day, creating empathy for living creatures.  What a wonderful focus in a media heavy world.

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Some past visits include:
Five Acres Orphanage
Peace4Kids Foster Care Support

Blissful Living Group Home
Covenant House Homeless Youth Shelter
Harriet Tubman Elementary School
Van Ness Elementary School
Milestones Community Preschool
Joyful Living Senior Residential Home
Motion Picture & Television Fund Assisted Living Care Facility
Compassion Project LA for low income families
Straight up Abilities Summer Camp 

Temple City Convalescent Hospital

Why do we visit?

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Have you ever wondered why animals bring such joy?

 

The emotional bond that occurs between a person and animal can illicit many positive outcomes for an individual by virtue of evoking the Attachment Response . This is because the warm and safe interaction triggers release of the hormone oxytocin.  Oxytocin is responsible for the human experience of trust and wellbeing, and has been given the nickname ‘the love hormone’ for this reason.

 

When we’re regularly engaged in trusting connectedness with others the functioning of our entire system is optimised towards health and overall congruence. We experience increased physical and mental health, increased immune function, increased energy and vitality, better sleep, an uptick in positive thoughts and feelings, a sense of contentedness, easefulness and joy, we are more resilient to stress and difficulty, more resourceful in our problem solving – Our entire system orients to a higher order of functioning that’s aligned with our optimal Self.

 

For a variety of reasons, many children and adults find it extremely difficult - or even impossible, to connect meaningfully with other human beings. Physical or mental illness, past trauma events, and cognitive differences are just a few of the circumstances that can culminate in a person experiencing difficulty or aversion to connecting with other people. Unfortunately the resulting experience of disconnection and isolation often compounds existent health issues and other difficulties for such individuals.

We are social creatures. We need and thrive on connection that provides us with warm and responsive interactions and the feedback this invariably provides our nervous system and mirror neurons, in order for us to develop the skills and capacity to help us manage our thoughts, feelings and actions in a way that is calm, alert and responsive, and to help us sustain an internal experience that is integrated and balanced. In other words, connection with others is essential to our health and overall wellbeing.

 

The beauty of animal assisted therapy is that animals can provide a safe source of attention and affection for individuals of any age, where it is not possible or feasible for them to easily ‘co-regulate’ by connecting meaningfully with other human beings. Animal assisted therapy can provide adults and children with a safe and uncomplicated bond of joy and attachment that culminates in innumerable benefits and positive outcomes for the individual, including, but not limited to:

  • Increasing movement and activity through walks and play 

  • Improving motor skills & movement

  • Improving energy levels & attention span

  • Improving sleep duration & quality

  • Providing companionship & decreasing loneliness

  • Improving mood, self-esteem and overall well-being 

  • Pain management

  • Down-regulating & managing anxiety

  • Improving communication skills

  • Increasing social interactions & supporting development of social skills, including recognition of the social & emotional cues essential to human relationships, capacity for attunement, and development of empathy.

  • Building capacity for connection with other people by providing a safe focal point for the attention in order to diffuse social anxiety.

Animal assisted therapy can have one or several goals at once, and these will determine how it works. The goal/s for therapy will evolve according to the needs of the person. Some examples of therapeutic goals are:

 

  • Providing comfort and reducing levels of pain

  • Improving movement or motor skills

  • Developing social or behavioural skills

  • Increasing motivation toward activities such as exercise or interacting with others

 

These are just a few. The possibilities and potential for animal therapy to assist people of any age with meaningful support for increased health and wellbeing in their lives is limitless.

 

Kerrie Baryczka

Board Member