The healing power of a pup

Apr 28, 2016 | News

Katie McCloskey, a student, divides her volunteer time between a research lab at UBC, where she works with children with ADHD, and pet therapy rounds at St. Paul’s, with her terrier/chihuahua mix, Maggie. Visiting patients for 2-3 hours every Friday, Katie describes the experience as, “a wonderful way to end the week.”Katie McCloskey, a student, divides her volunteer time between a research lab at UBC, where she works with children with ADHD, and pet therapy rounds at St. Paul’s, with her terrier/chihuahua mix, Maggie. Visiting patients for 2-3 hours every Friday, Katie describes the experience as, “a wonderful way to end the week.”

It is an ancient scientific law based on repeated experimentation and observation: If you look at a dog long enough, eventually you will smile.

It is this magical and timeless canine-human dynamic that is the foundation of pet therapy.

That dogs brings happiness, warmth and security in humans dates back to hunter-gatherer societies, where the relaxed canine was a sign to our cave-dwelling ancestors that all was safe and sound.

Theories attribute our enduring love and respect for dogs to the fact that they helped our species survive. This is not hard to imagine when, in centuries past, you wouldn’t know what was going to step out of those woods next. You can see the good sense in having a dog around.

Since then, little has changed. Dogs still make us feel safe and secure, warm and happy. And in a hospital setting, it has been shown that dogs can improve a patient’s “social, emotional, or cognitive functioning.”

The proof is in the pudding, or rather, the kibbles. The prevalence of animal assisted therapy programs in hospitals worldwide speaks to the fact that there are significant benefits for patients.

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