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Experiencing the Benefits of Pet Therapy

Stories | 08.31.18

At Adler University’s Vancouver Campus, students have had opportunities throughout the academic year to learn about pet therapy and directly experience the benefits of spending time with assistance dogs. Derryl-Lynn Braumberger, a student in art therapy, shares her reflections on the experience.

During finals season, when the stress levels rise and grad students become little buzzing worker bees, Adler brings in the big dogs to give us that much-needed boost to our morale. Well, the dogs are not very big; they’re actually assistance puppies in training!

PADS (Pacific Assistance Dogs Society) is a volunteer-run and donor-funded program that trains assistance dogs for those in need of a paw. Volunteers and their pups from the program have been visiting us at Adler near the end of each term to help us learn more about pet therapy. It is always quite the sight to see the students on the Community Hall floor, gently cooing a little “good doggo” here or a “sweet baby angel” there.

As published by Healthline, benefits and goals of pet therapy include:

  • making you happier, lessening depression, and improving your outlook on life
  • decreasing loneliness and isolation by giving you a companion
  • reducing boredom
  • reducing anxiety because of its calming effects
  • helping children learn empathic and nurturing skills
  • improving the relationship between you and your healthcare provider
  • improving motor skills and joint movement
  • improving assisted or independent movement
  • increasing self-esteem
  • increasing verbal communication
  • developing social skills
  • increasing willingness to join in activities
  • improving interactions with others
  • motivating willingness to exercise

Not only do the students get some puppy snuggles and stress relief, the dogs get to practice all their new skills and learn how to self-regulate among excited, dog-loving students. Hanging out with the puppies was definitely a calming and joyful experience each time. And it made me feel more connected, especially since the stress of final assignments and exams tends to make me retreat into my own mind. Just a few hours with those little guys and I was feeling happier and more like myself.

Admittedly, I am more of a cat person (do not tell the puppies, please). Moving to Vancouver forced me to leave my two cats with my family, and that has been a tough adjustment. When I find myself really missing them, Catfé in International Village Mall allows me to get my fill of kitty cuddles. I always feel better, like my heart is a little fuller, each time I visit the fully adoptable cats. Unfortunately, my apartment building has a no-pet policy in place, which is seemingly common in many rental properties (unless you want to pay exorbitant fees). Although, I have heard from reliable sources (PADS volunteers) that many buildings will make exceptions for service dogs in training.

Speaking of PADS volunteers, did you know that you can become an assistance dog trainer? PADS offers both full-time and part-time positions for those who are passionate about helping out in their community, love little puppies, and are not concerned about having dog hair on all of their black clothes. There are several roles available, from puppy-sitter to event-planner, all in the name of providing those in need with unconditionally loving companions. Learn more about volunteering. What better way to get round-the-clock pet therapy while also helping countless people live fuller and better lives?

Derryl-Lynn Braumberger is heading into her second year in the Master of Counselling Psychology: Art Therapy, program at the Vancouver Campus. She is from Edmonton, Alberta, and received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Art & Design from the University of Alberta. Derryl is passionate about working with the arts in her daily life, as well as in her future as a counselling art therapist.

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