So today I felt rather smug when after our morning walk my housemate told me I’d be having the day at home. Call me a part-timer but it was too cold to be commuting to central Leeds today even with a thick coat like mine. I happily retired back to bed, enjoyed a mid morning Bonio and dreamt of my recent adventures at work – memories of the bacon scraps on walks with one of my favourite clients always makes my nose twitch in my sleep.
When 6pm arrived and my housemate returned from work with a spring in her step I knew it hadn’t been the average sort of day. Being a dog my sense of smell never fails me, she reeked of donkeys! My smugness soon turned to jealously. It was clear I’d actually been made redundant for the day and that some other 4 legged folk had filled my place.
I wouldn’t have minded so much if she wasn’t so giddy about the day chatting away about how much fun she’d had on a visit to the local donkey sanctuary with another person we regularly work with. Despite my envy I reassured myself these animals were probably novices compared to me. Credit to her though, my housemate did raise some valid points yet again recognising that us 4-legged folk are actually often much more therapeutic than human therapists. And we don’t even have to do a degree or get in debt to acquire our expertise.
Turns out the person we support had been so excited to arrive at the donkey sanctuary they could barely wait for the taxi to stop before hopping out. Usually they would find it difficult to concentrate but much like with me they enjoyed photographing the donkeys and took great interest in them. They met not one, but a tribe of rescued donkey’s and spent time listening to their histories. Much like in my puppy years of life they’d been abused too. The person particularly took a liking to a donkey with a bit of a phobia of people. They were able to identify that similarly to them-self, the donkey had also suffered a life time of abuse and neglect but had come out the other side – a survivor.
I think us animals are best for this line of work who have gone through a rough time ourselves as we give people who are struggling hope that things do get better. My housemate often tells people about a magazine article she read where it recommended battery hens were used for animal assisted therapy in a mental health rehabilitation hospital. Evidence showed that when people saw the chickens recover e.g. their feathers growing back and their confidence growing, it gave them belief they could recover from different aspects of their own illness such as past trauma, self harm, and times of crisis.
Despite my disappointment I was left behind today, me and my housemate at least agree on one thing and that’s our view that pets as therapy should be made more accessible to people who would benefit. I love the fact my housemate gives me credit that some people we both work with would never have engaged with her should it not have been for me. I’m sure there’s not many places the person who visited the donkeys today would feel comfortable visiting and staying for a 2 full hours either so I’m glad they felt at ease there.
I rest my case, us pets are powerful. I’m hoping I can return to my day job tomorrow and the donkeys appreciate theirs was just a temporary contract.
Jed (Pet’s As Therapy Dog) with help from my housemate Rebecca Wint (Occupational Therapist)