I was down for the count for a few days – scratchy throat, sinus congestion, and cough. Although I was ill, I found great comfort – in my pets.
Our newly-adopted dog, Jeremiah, stayed by my side as I napped or simply sat in the couch recliner. Mary also remained nearby, and my long-haired tuxedo cat, Murphy, lay on the arm of the couch several times. The comfort I received from their nearness and from petting them is indescribable. Many of you can relate to that. Our pets can be our therapy, no matter if we’re suffering from a physical illness or from emotional turmoil.
Therapy animals provide great comfort to people. Dogs, cats, guinea pigs, even horses and small ponies provide respite for humans in hospitals, hospice, or other settings. Through specific training, these animals are welcomed in more situations and facilities than ever before, as studies show interacting with animals de-stresses people and brings them joy.
Lutheran Church Charities takes these studies seriously, and the organization provides Comfort Dogs to help people impacted by natural or man-made crises. Just this week, some of those golden retrievers were dispatched to Las Vegas to help the city’s residents and visitors after Sunday night’s mass shooting. The LCC Comfort Dogs have also provided therapy for people impacted by other shootings as well as tornadoes and other natural disasters.
As I sat close with my pets this week, I was reminded how important we are to them, and I know how important they are to me. My animals give me love, acceptance, devotion, and comfort in my time of need, and many animals do the same for strangers.
Whether it’s your own pet interacting with you, therapy pets visiting hospital patients, or LCC’s golden retrievers dispatched to hurting communities, animals bring comfort to humans – they are considered by many as angels with paws. I know I am thankful for the comfort of pets, and I imagine many others are too.
September has arrived and with it come reminders of the change of seasons, from summer to autumn. Schools are back in session, the last holiday of the summer season has concluded, and Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas products are on full display at the stores. But, before all those other holidays is one less thought about or known: September is also a great time to celebrate dogs!
The last week September is considered National Dog Week, when dog owners and various organizations honor dogs. William Judy, who started Dog World Magazine in the 1920s, first set aside this special week as a way to celebrate those special creatures deemed “man’s best friend”.
The American Kennel Club (www.akw.org) honors both dogs and owners during Responsible Dog Ownership Days. Various AKC clubs host activities highlighting the joy (and responsibility) of owning a dog. This offers an excellent reminder to kids and to dog owners everywhere about the responsibility of having a dog. Join with others to be the catalyst of that reminder!
Dogs have served humankind for thousands of years, from protector to bearer of burdens. Native Americans, for example, used dogs to transport loads prior to the horse. Still today, dogs serve people in a variety of ways: herding and protecting flocks; finding fowl in the field; guiding the blind; assisting deaf and wheel-chair bound individuals; rescuing lost children; and bringing smiles to those in hospital beds. Here’s a quick look at some of the ways dogs help people:
Assistance dogs are specially trained to help people manage physical or emotional disabilities. Guide dogs assist the blind, deaf assistance dogs alert people to the telephone or doorbell, and assistance dogs help those in wheelchairs open refrigerators and building doors.
Search and rescue dogs look for the lost. From hikers and skiers to victims of the 9-11 terrorist attacks, these hero dogs put their health and life in the balance in the line of their duty.
Military and police dogs also put their lives on the line. From sniffing for drugs or bombs to patrol duties, these dogs serve our country in the United States and abroad.
Visiting hospitals and nursing homes, therapy dogs bring smiles to the faces of ill children and lonely senior citizens.
Read-to-the-dog programs are popular in many libraries across the country; these programs help children become better readers for they aren’t as nervous reading to dogs as they are reading with adults. The Butte Public Library, for example, has a program called Paws for Reading, at which time children interact with special visiting dogs.
Sporting dogs, including spaniels, retrievers and pointers, help bring home dinner in the form of ducks, pheasants, and partridge,
Herding dogs, like the Australian Shepherd and the Old English sheep dog, have the genetic instinct to drive and gather livestock. Historically, they have been used to assist shepherds and farmers; many of these dogs, such as the collie and the Canaan dog, have been used for centuries.
A variety of dogs are working breeds, including the Siberian husky and the Bernese mountain dog. Others, including German Shepherds, Akitas, and Doberman pinschers, help protect people and property.
Dogs help people in many ways, including the simple acts of helping us exercise, lowering our blood pressure, and getting us to laugh and smile more often. So, honor your special pooch this month with an extra ounce of kibble, a special hug, or a day outdoors in the field. And, remember those wonderful canines you don’t know, like those that search for lost hikers, those who dig skiers from avalanches, those which have given their lives sniffing for bombs, dogs that bring a smile to a grandfather’s face when visiting the nursing home, or the dogs visiting libraries who listen to children hesitantly read aloud… dogs in service to others for the sake of all.
If you live in or near Casper, Wyoming join me and my therapy dog Mary at the Natrona County Library on Sat., Sept. 27 at 2 pm. We will be joined by local educator and fellow dog-lover Christina Lenihan and her therapy dog Chewy and will be conducting a program called "Dogs with Jobs," highlighting the various roles dogs play in our society. Learn more at http://www.natronacountylibrary.org/events/cat_ids~6,7,11/.
Gayle M. Irwin is a writer and public relations professional who volunteers with various animal rescue groups. She enjoys sharing her books and her passion for pets and the environment with others.