CHENNAI: An elderly couple from Coorg was depressed that they forced their son into the army and lost him in a battle. They stopped interacting with people and could see no purpose in living. A counsellor suggested keeping a trained Cocker Spaniel, Bruno. In eight months, they started interacting with other people for Bruno — for his walk in the parks and with his vet.
Detecting Physical Problems
Dogs have always been a great stress buster and have helped people fight problems such as diabetes, BP and heart-related issues. Dog guru (psychologist) Amrut S Hiranya, who trains therapy dogs and offers consultation to patients, says that in today’s world, dogs have exceeded our imagination to help people suffering from physical and mental illness. There are blind guide dogs, selectively bred to have 100 per cent tolerance and intelligence with judgment to guide a blind person. The epilepsy warning dogs who are trained to sense the impulse and scent the change in body odour and inform the patient that he or she will get the attack in a few seconds. Amrut says, “Dogs have given lakhs of people the confidence to go out discover the world rather than waiting for an attack in bed.” The cancer-detection dogs are trained specifically to identify and notify with the odour of cancer cells in urine samples. The practice is widely used in the hospitals in America today, says Amrut.
He adds that he has noticed that children with special needs work and learn much faster when they are trained with dogs. “For instance, they learn numbers faster when you teach them with a dog, saying there is one dog with two ears, three colours and four legs which ate five biscuits.”
Different animals are used for therapy. In India, dogs, cats, rabbits and horses are mainly used for the therapeutic purposes. Rehana Mohammed Shakir began, what she calls, a learning and recreational programme for children, to encourage love and understanding for animals with her 18 Persian cats. Started three and a half years ago, she says, “Pet engagement helps a child with self expression. The world is fragile. There’s lot of expectations. One needs some place to express her/his feelings in a non-verbal way.”
Horses are widely used for therapy too. Equine therapy helps in neurological stimulations. Riding a horse can benefit people who have undergone physical trauma. Riding a horse improves blood circulation.
Interacting With Environment
Stress can delay the process of healing and interacting with the animals helps de-stress. It initiates different kinds of stimuli for a person suffering from brain injury. Dr Susheel Chugh, resident doctor, PMR, at St John’s Hospital says, “When they go out, feed the animals and birds, pat them and interact with them, it brings cheerfulness which is good for the immune system.” The hospital keeps deers, hens, rabbits and different kinds of birds at their park. Dr Susheel adds, “People with permanent illness like paraplegia can fall into depression if they are confined to a room. We give the freedom to our patients to walk out and interact with the animals. It is rejuvenating.”