1001 Ways to Achieve Rehabilitation: No. 3 Pet Therapy

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Before we bought our house, we had two cats. They followed us on every PCS while Jeff was in the Navy. Our oldest, Raven, has been with me since high school (we theorize that she is immortal). Amelia, pictured above, is the first cat we bought as a couple. When we bought our first home, we acquired the two barn cats that came with it. 
Dean doesn't like pants. 
Approximately six months had passed since Jeff separated from service due to his medical disability. We were spending a lot of time indoors doing renovations, and because we were waiting the Department of Veteran Affairs to get certain mechanisms in motion, Jeff had not been to an official physical therapy session for a long time. He still did the stretches at home, and because we have a stairwell, he was able to practice leveraging his own body weight using his feet instead of his arms. 
In late January, we made the decision the buy pygmy goats. We were under the foolish impression that they are fantastic lawnmowers (complete myth!), and we figured that getting out to feed them and walk them would be good exercise, considering the terrain of our property. It varies from flat to steep inclines and we have gravel, grass, meadows, and wooded patches. Jeff knew how to set his own pace by this point, and when to identify his limits, and he felt that we could handle goats.  
Until we put a door on the hay barn, this is how we keep the goats out. 
So we bought two adult pygmy goats. The female was pregnant at that time. However, because the seller did not know her breed date, the days and weeks passed with us wondering when she would pop!
They LOVE dried roses. 
Eventually, on March 14th, 2016, two twin bucklings were born. We named them Sam and Dean, after the characters of one of the shows that we enjoy to watch when we want to curl up on a cloudy day with apple cider and tomato soup. We are in the process of wethering the bucklings now (as you can see in one of the pictures). We decided not to bottle raise because it turns out Dove, our doe, has excellent maternal extincts. Instead, we hold and pet them and use behavioral training every chance we get. As a result. I think our goats have adopted us into their herd. 
Raven's grudging friendship with Mina. 
Knowing that Raven is  getting older, we also adopted our third tortie, Wilhemina Brimley. This brings us up to five cats and four goats. I neglected to mention that we also allowed our goats to mate one final time before we had our buck, Buck, surgically castrated. At this point, we do not think it took, but we are keeping a close eye on the herd. 
This photo was featured on out Instagram & Facebook as Mindful Goat Lesson #24. 
The use of pets in psychotherapy and rehabilitation programs is commonplace. According to the National Service Animal Registry (NSAR), there are four roles that pets and companion animals may fulfill in the process of assisting with illness, injury, or trauma rehabilitation. 

  1. Service animals (typically dogs) assist people with major life tasks. These animals require very specific training. According to the briefing provided by the Americans with Disabilities Act, service animals are considered working animals not pets
  2. Psychiatric service dogs (PSD) are a type of service animal prescribed by a license mental health provider to aid a person who is substantially limited in performing certain life tasks. 
  3. Emotional support animals, sometimes referred to as comfort animals, may also be prescribed by a license mental health professional. However, they do not generally have or require the specific training that service animals do and are not covered under the same provisions as certified service animals. 
  4. Therapy animals may appear in facilities (like the resident cat of a nursing home), as an occasional visitor in a hospital or rehabilitation center, or even in the psychotherapy room in pet-assisted therapy. Therapy dogs must be registered. 
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulates and enforces the rights of individuals with disabilities. While it is not currently mandated by the ADA to register a service animal, the ADA recommends it. For more information, it's helpful to read the law, although you can find a condensed version relevant to service animals on the NSAR website

Paws for People provides a great summary of the benefits of pet therapy on their website. If you would like a free downloadable from Paws for People, which includes information on the benefits of pet therapy as well as a list of relevant research, click the link button below. 
Even if your pet or companion animal does not fall under the categories list above, the benefits of living are numerous. If for medical or legal reasons you cannot own a pet, you can also visit zoos, volunteer at animal shelters, or spend time in a dog park  or bird sanctuary. Birding is an excellent activity that does not require much more than patience. If you owned a pet as a child, revisit the happy memories you shared, as memories have been shown to excite some of the same neural pathways as real-life experiences. Whatever you may choose, don't forget to thank your furry friend for their companionship! 

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