I advocate that now, more than ever, is the time to get in touch, literally, with an animal. In the UK we are experiencing the uncertainties of a reduced lockdown while simultaneously facing the unknown of a ‘second spike’ in the pandemic. Stressful times indeed. I believe connecting with animals and pets can be a very positive part of our healing process and can benefit our mental health.
Maybe it is because of the non-judgemental encounter we receive from animals: the way horses, dogs and cats just accept us as we are. Or maybe it is the sheer, gorgeous comfort of the physical touch of warm, soft fur. And maybe it is just a magical combination. Whichever it is, the calming influence of our animal companions is proven to help reduce stress and anxiety.
I am very fortunate to have my own four-legged hairy stress-buster: Laszlo. Or, as a neighbour called him recently, “the legend that is Laszlo”! Laz has been in my life since 1997 and we’ve been through some challenging times together. He is now 29 and though he is retired from riding duty, he is very much still ‘on-call’ every day, to provide therapeutic cuddles to me, my family and friends as and when the need arises. He is a great listener. And he naturally forces you to be in the ‘here and now’, focussed on him and, importantly, to be authentic: horses will not stand for any fakery, nonsense or bull!
Pets As Therapy is a national charity that taps into the healing powers of animals to help people. It aims to enhance health and wellbeing in the community through the visits of volunteers with their behaviourally assessed animals. The charity, founded in 1983 by Lesley Scott-Ordish, provides a visiting service in hospitals, hospices, nursing and care homes and special needs schools across the UK. Pets As Therapy say that their therapeutic visits:
- Enhance lives in our communities by providing companionship and friendship and helps to tackle loneliness.
- Improve the lives of people suffering from debilitating mental and physical health conditions and illnesses such as Autism, Dementia and Stroke by including animal assisted interventions as part of a holistic approach to treatment.
- Improve literacy in children by developing their confidence, interest and enjoyment in reading through our read2dogs scheme.
You can find out more at https://petsastherapy.org/