If you have recently viewed filmmaker and diver Craig Foster’s 2020 documentary, “My Octopus Teacher," you have observed the life-changing, deep connection between a human being and an animal.
Co-founder of the Children and Nature Network, author of Last Call in the Woods and Our Wild Calling, and winner of the Audubon Medal, Richard Louv calls this a “Habitat of the Heart." It is the permeability of empathy connection that extends from within us, across the mysterious between and into the other being. This transportive shift of consciousness can change our lives and the lives around us for the better.
Let’s explore the recommendations from Pet Partners, the Society of Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHES), the American Journal of Infection Control, and the International Association of Human-Animal Interaction Organizations (IAHAIO) on how the human-animal bond is mutually beneficial between people and animals that positively influence the health and well-being of both.
Interaction with therapy animals in medical settings across all age ranges has the following harmonious effects:
• Decreased perceptions of pain
• Improved recovery rates
• Decreased anxiety and stress
• Less fear and worry in patients
• Improved biobehavioral markers of stress
Therapy animals and physical wellness:
• Therapy animals have been found to assist people who are formally being treated for medical concerns as well as inspire physical wellness prior to the point of formal intervention.
Dan Buettner in the Blue Zones Solution for eating and living like the world’s healthiest people lists owning a dog because the dog encourages the individual who is caring for it to walk or run regularly.
Researchers found that “if you own a dog, you get over five hours of exercise a week without a lot of added effort.” Motivation and adherence to the exercise program is often stated as, “the dogs need to be walked."
• Therapy animals’ diet discussion gracefully leads to the unforced flow of conversation about human nutrition.
Therapy animals and mental wellness show that change and healing is possible. No matter what happened in the past, the present is powerful. Animals can reverse the impact of trauma with effective intuitive healing communication.
• Increased perceptions of social support
• Support people during times of crisis
• Assist professionals in providing trauma recovery
• Decrease levels of general anxiety
• Alleviate symptoms of depression
• Assist in formalized mental health treatment
Animal-Assisted Interventions (AAI)’s positive impacts such as Pet Partners Read With Me Initiative:
• Foster reading abilities, such as reading rate, accuracy, fluency, and comprehension.
• Enhance primary skills such as object recognition and categorization
• Lighten stress levels, especially surrounding events like tests
• Provide a source of motivation, stimulation, and focus in learning
Seniors have access to the healing power of animals regardless of their pet ownership status:
• Comfort people with dementia
• Promote socialization and engagement in elderly age
• Decrease depression, anxiety, and irritability in seniors
• Encourage positive perceptions related to a person’s health
“Ironically, the 2020 coronavirus pandemic, as tragic as it is, has dramatically increased public awareness of the deep human need for nature connection, and is adding a greater sense of urgency to the movement to connect children, families, and communities to nature," Richard Louv said.
For more information on how these deep connections between human beings and animals can begin to heal ourselves and our wounded planet, read Richard Louv’s books: Last Child in the Woods, Our Wild Calling, view the movie based on a real life story, “Penguin Bloom” or go to: www.RiciglianoFarms.com. Check out “Hoof Beats for Healing” Red River Valley with Equine Assisted Therapy in Breckenridge, Minnesota.