Saturday, December 17, 2011

Elephant Helps a Man with a Cold

Obviously this is totally far-fetched, but I had to post it anyway because it made me smile!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

National Animal Shelter Appreciation Week

Many of the animals that are used in therapeutic ways came from animal shelters.

This week is National Animal Shelter Appreciation week.  This is the perfect time for me to to share this video from the SPCA of Wake County in North Carolina, that a friend of mine works at.  Unfortunately, the music has been pulled from the video, but as they say on their webpage "you can't keep a dog down".  There are instructions on the video to get around it.

Lastly, another friend has two dogs that need to be adopted.  They were found in a Wal-Mart parking lot and have had their shots and are healthy.  They are about 7-9 months old and some kind of lab/German Shepard mix.  If you're interested, let me know.  Otherwise, pass the information on because her apartment doesn't really have room for these guys along with the two dogs she already has.

Look at these boys!
Sam- posing for the camera.
Wally- just hanging out.
Brotherly love
***Update! Sam has been adopted but Wally is still looking for a forever home.***

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Dog Lead Dog World

A few weeks ago, I ran across the story of Lily, a Great Dane, who was born with a  condition that led her eyelashes to grow into her eyes. Veterinarians removed her eyes when she was just a puppy.

I would have thought life would be pretty hard for Lily but, she found a guide in her friend Maddison, another Great Dane.

Unfortunately, after 6 years, her humans could no longer take care of the two large dogs and was looking for someone willing to take them both.

Just 9 days later, the story of Lily and Maddison being adopted made the news.

Maddison is a great reminder of what it means to be a friend.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Mae Sai Mai, a Bengal tiger in the Sriracha Tiger Zoo, is "giving back".  She was nursed by a pig for 4 months when she was just a cub.

Friday, October 28, 2011

You've Got Worms?!

In honor of Halloween coming up, I figured that this week I will spotlight "creepy crawly" critters and their ability to help us heal.  Enjoy!

You've got worms?!

When you heard about someone having worms, it's usually something that they are getting treated for, not  a treatment.

But today, you will learn that some worms are actually being used to help people fight some pretty serious disorders: Multiple Sclerosis, Crohn's disease and Type I Diabetes to name a few.

Don't see the connection?  It turns out that the these diseases, along with other autoimmune diseases are a result of an overactive immune system.  So the thought behind using the worms, or "helminthic therapy" as it's called, is that your body now has something to fight, besides itself.

Interesting theory, right?

Well one guy named Jasper Lawrence was so determined to try hookworms to cure his asthma that he went to Cameroon (the one place the World Health Organization mentioned as having hookworms).  You can read about his adventure and how he traveled to Africa with the sole purpose of getting infected with hookworms.

He now, is a vendor of hookworms and his asthma is in remission.

Jasper sounds pretty extreme and maybe that might put you off from thinking about helminthic therapy, but he's not the only one with these findings.  Here's a website that lists many studies and their results for people with diseases ranging from allergies and asthma to autism and psychiatric disorders.

All of the studies seem to agree, that the more sterile we become, the more likely we are to have our bodies attack themselves.  We have an immune system, let's put it to work in a positive way!

Pass the dirt please!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Spiderman, Spiderman. Does Whatever a Spider Can

In honor of Halloween coming up, I figured that this week I will spotlight "creepy crawly" critters and their ability to help us heal.  Enjoy!

Arachnophobia is a very common fear.  Even I get a few goosebumps after seeing this picture:
But would your feelings change if you learned that spiders could help you become bulletproof?  Now, I'm not talking about getting bit by a radioactive spider and suddenly developing "spidey senses" like Spiderman.

There is real medical research that involves spiders and helping people heal.  The best part is, you don't have to get bit by a spider.  In fact, you don't need to interact with the spider at all, instead, it's the spider's web that is the real healer.

The web from spiders have been used in the past as natural adhesive bandages. Again, I got this information from Diana Gabaldon's character, Claire, in Outlander.  (It's amazing what you learn when you read!)  Claire was cleaning out the medical supplies and among a lot of useless things (horse dung, mouse ears, and mummy dust) she came upon some spider webs.

I had considered a large packet of cobwebs for some time, hesitating between the piles.  Both Beaton's Guide and my own dim memories of folk medicine held that spider's web was efficacious in dressing wounds.  While my own inclination was to consider such usage unhygienic in the extreme, my experience with linen bandages by the roadside had shown me the desirability of having something with adhesive as well as absorbent properties for dressings.  At last, I set the cobwebs back in the cupboard, resolving to see whether there might be a way of sterilizing them.  Not boiling, I thought.  Maybe steam would cleanse them without destroying the stickiness? 
(Diana Gabaldon, Outlander 1991.)

But with the advances in research and modern medicine, they've found that spider webs can do more than just protect an open wound.  They can actually be used to grow new skin cells on, both dermal and epidermal layers.  And since spider's silk is known for it's strength, one study tested the skin/silk hybrid and determined that skin merged with the spider's silk can stop bullets fired at a reduced speed.
He might not stop bullets, but he probably stops traffic.
Side note: you don't want to just any spider's webbing.  We've got a couple of dangerous spiders here in the US including the black widow and brown recluse.  This is a video of a brown widow my husband found in the backyard.  (We thought it was a black widow.)  

(That is my dog panting, not my husband)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Lovely, Little, Flesh Eaters

In honor of Halloween coming up, I figured that this week I will spotlight "creepy crawly" critters and their ability to help us heal. Enjoy!

Yesterday I talked about how to close a wound using ants, but sometimes it's better for a wound not to be closed.  Even the ones that you do close, you usually want to clean them out first. 

That's where maggots come in handy.

Again, I was introduced to these creatures' healing power through Diana Gabaldon, an amazing author who writes books that take place in the 18th century (as well as other time periods).  This time the reference is in the book Drums of Autumn.  Here's the quote from that book:

"It works," I said, frowning slightly as I opened another incision and deposited three of the wiggling white larvae. "Much better than the usual means of debridement; for that, I'd have to open up your foot much more extensively, and physically scrape out as much dead tissue as I could reach-which would not only hurt like the dickens, it would likely cripple you permanently.  Our little friends here eat dead tissue, though; they can get into tiny places where I couldn't reach, and do a nice, thorough job."
"Our friends the maggots," Brianna muttered.  "God, Mama!"
"What, exactly, is going to stop them eating my entire leg?" Roger asked with a thoroughly spurious attempt at detachment.  "They ... um ... they spread, don't they?"
"Oh, no," I assured him cheerfully.  "Maggots are larval forms; they don't breed.  They also don't eat live tissue- only the nasty dead stuff.  If there's enough to get them through their pupal cycle, they'll develop into tiny flies and fly off- if not, when the food's exhausted, they'll simply crawl out, searching for more."
(Diana Gabaldon, Drums of Autum 1997.)

Not all maggots are equal though.
Blowfly larva = good guys
These guys are actually baby "house flies"
that we shoo away from our food and drinks.
Screwworm fly larva = bad guys
These guys are biters when they grow up as well.
Some maggots will eat live flesh so you can't just walk outside and just collect random maggots to use.  In fact, you will need to get a prescription from a doctor and get the prescription filled, but you are able to apply the maggots yourself.  

The doctor might take some convincing that maggots are the way to go but you can show your doctor the research.  One study found maggots more cost effective, L82 for complete maggot treatment versus L503 for traditional debridement.  Plus, they helped the wound heal much quicker!  You could also lead your doctor to this cool site that addresses common misconceptions about maggot therapy.

Lastly, your pets don't need to miss out on maggot therapy!  Horses can have maggots clean out their hoof wounds.

Maybe we should start looking at maggots lovingly, like this:

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Stitch in Time, Saves... Lives?

In honor of Halloween coming up, I figured that this week I will spotlight "creepy crawly" critters and their ability to help us heal.  Enjoy!

Most of us know that ants are hard workers.

But, a lesser known fact is that some have given their lives to medicine.

I grew up in New York (the state, not the city) and we had lots of ants.  I played with sugar ants which are so little and cute and carpenter ants which are much bigger and more robust, but still cool.  I'd let them crawl on my hand and it would tickle.

When we moved down to Florida, my feeling for ants changed.  In Florida, they have fire ants which should not be picked up and played with.  These guys will bite you to hold you still and then use their stinger on their abdomen to inject a kind of venom.  Don't worry, this post won't tell you that fire ants are actually really beneficial medically.  You can still go on hating them.

Army ants are the healers.

With looks like that, it might be hard to believe that they are useful, but several groups of people use Army ants (along with other large ants with big mandibles) to close wounds.  Here's a video where they explain how to use a "suture ant" in a pinch. (ha ha).

So basically, bring edges of wound together, apply ants, allow them to bite down, rip their bodies off and presto, dissolvable sutures!  Something to keep in mind when you're in the wilderness and you get hurt.

Suture ants in action ... in a decapitated way

Monday, October 24, 2011

I Want to Suck Your Blood! (in a good way)

In honor of Halloween coming up, I figured that this week I will spotlight "creepy crawly" critters and their ability to help us heal.  Enjoy!

There's been a lot of interest in vampires lately.

I wonder if this is due to the fact that real blood suckers are being revived again in medical practices.  In 2004, the FDA approved the use of leeches as medicinal devices but, leeches have actually been used in medicine long before this.  

My favorite author, Diana Gabaldon, is the one that showed me the benefits of leeches.  Before that, my only experience with the creatures was when I was very young (5 or 6 years old).  My mother had one on her leg, although I'm not sure how she got it, and all I remember was her absolutely losing control, she was completely upset and panicked.  

So when I read in Outlander, a book taking place in the 18th century, about a women applying leeches to the swelling on a man's face after he got punched, I was confused.  How is that going to help anything?  Luckily, the woman explained why she was doing it.  It turns out that leeches are useful when a bruise is new and the blood is still flowing under the skin.  They will take care of the excess blood and bring down the swelling.  She warned that as with anything, there's such a thing as overuse.  Leeches are only good for new/fresh bruises.  If you put them on an old bruise, they will just take the new healthy blood.  I think one of the coolest parts in the scene is that when the leeches are full, they just fall off all by themselves.
People would keep leeches in decorative urns with holes in the top to allow the leeches to breathe.  Seems like an easy, free way to deal with swelling and bruises.  Besides, the urn looks really nice!
As far as their use in hospitals, one article at mentions:
"Leeches are already widely used in American hospitals, and companies that raised and sold them here before 1976 were allowed to continue doing so. However, the medical device law passed that year required newcomers to the field to seek approval."
Evidently, medicinal leeches cost about $8 each and are non-returnable, in case you are interested in checking them out. Otherwise, next time you go to the hospital, ask if they use leeches there, you might be surprised!

Friday, October 7, 2011

What My Dog Teaches Me

Mid-term exams are over and I'm finally able to hang out with my husband, cat and dog again.  The weather was gorgeous today and I took full advantage of it by playing outside with my dog for a few hours.  While we were hanging out, I realized that even though my exams are over (for now) and I'm not in class, my dog was acting as my teacher today.

Things I Learned from My Dog:
1. Don't Quit: Once my dog starts playing fetch with a ball/stick/rock/whatever, he recognizes that object as his "toy".  Today while playing fetch, he lost track of what I threw and when I told him "get your toy", the hunt was on.  Boaz, did not give up the search even though it was hard.  He didn't come whining to me, or try to get a new "toy".  He stuck with it and eventually he found it and was able to continue playing.

2. Look Around: Boaz and I went to the levee to play and we haven't been there in a while.  Initially, I was annoyed that he was stopping every few feet to check out the smells and add some of his own.  Then I realized that he was taking time to enjoy the walk, not just rushing to get to the endpoint.  Once I slowed down and looked around I witnessed two red shouldered hawks flying with a vulture.  I enjoyed the wind and just the fact that I was outside instead of in front of a computer and studying school books.

3. Find the Fun: When we play fetch, you can tell my dog has some retriever in him.  He will play fetch for an hour (he actually did today).  So how can doing the same thing over and over not get boring?  Why doesn't Boaz see the uselessness of bringing me the toy if I'm just going to throw it and ask for him to get it again?  Because for him, it's fun.  He sees it as a game, so it is a game.  The next time there's some mindless task to be done, I'm going to realize that I'm "playing fetch" and find a way to make it fun.

4. Be Flexible: We weren't the only ones enjoying the nice weather and the water.  Usually when people see Boaz follow the throw into the water, they are impressed.  Today was no exception.  The gentleman watching us picked up a stick and threw it in the water for his dog, who unfortunately was uninterested to say the least.  To Boaz, it didn't matter who was throwing what, if something was thrown, then it needed to be retrieved. 

5. Kisses Make Everything Better: After being outside for hours playing fetch, walking and running I was getting tired.  While I wanted to lay down in the grass, Boaz wasn't ready to call it quits yet.  He still was full of energy and a bit clumsy, stepping on me.  Of course I wanted to be mad at him, but then he comes over and starts licking my face and all is forgiven.

I enjoy spending time with my dog.  I wonder what else he will teach me.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Reach Out and Touch Somebody

I have been busy with school this week (mid terms are coming up) and haven't had a chance to blog.  Instead, I'm going to direct you to a friend's blog where I was featured as a guest writer last month.

The story is about the important of connecting with animals through touch.


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Training or Gaining a Service Dog

I've been asked by a couple people recently about how to go about either getting a service dog or training one.  Yay for people reading my blog!

There are several groups throughout the US and some around the world, that train service dogs.  One of the more well established organizations is the Delta Society.  This non-profit has been around for a little over 30 years and they are built on the thought that "People are healthier and happier because companion, service and therapy animals enrich and positively impact their everyday lives."

With that in mind, they have come up with a directory of service animal trainers and training programs.  You can search by state, organization name, and/or what disability you have.  I appreciate this listing that they've put together because when I was trying to find a group that trains companion dogs in Florida for someone, I was having a hard time.  My search was full of obedience classes which wasn't what I was looking for. The other good thing about using this directory is that the Delta Society acts as an accreditation board, so if a group makes it on their list, you can be assured that the program is legit.

As far as international directories, I've been able to locate one for Australia and interestingly enough, they have a Delta Society there too, although it doesn't seem to have any connection to the one in the US besides the name.  Otherwise, I'm having a hard time finding directories for countries outside the US.  If you have found one for somewhere else, please let me know.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Animals Provide Spa Treatment II

I hate feet.

I think they are disgusting.  I don't want to touch anybody's (sorry hubby!)  And I definitely don't want anyone touching mine.  So I'm not someone that gets pedicures.

But, I just might be interested in trying a pedicure that doesn't involve people touching my feet.  Instead, little fish do the job.

You can read more about this interesting idea here.  Unfortunately, fish pedicures have been banned in the US.  Evidently people were worried about the spread of disease.  Again, I've never had a pedicure, so I don't know, but do people normally get as much joy out of pedicures as Samantha Brown does from these fish? (fast forward to 0:50s for some reason I can't get it to link at that point)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Animals Provide Spa Treatment Part I

Rocky, my cat has that strange habit of kneading blankets, pillows, really anything soft including us, with his paws.  Evidently it's more common than I initially thought.  Some of my co-workers call it "making bread".

One evening, my husband remarked, while being kneaded in the back by Rocky, that cats should be used for massage.  I don't know that anyone has capitalized on cats' abilities to work the knots out, but another animal has been used as massage therapists.

In Israel, you can swim in the dead sea, walk in the Garden of Gethsemane, and get a massage by several snakes.  Ada Barak is the brains behind this spa treatment idea.  She noticed that people seem to calm down when they interacted with her snakes.  With that thought in mind, she figured that using snakes in massage would be a great idea.

Evidently she's not the only one because her snakes have been giving massages since 2007.  

I don't know, what do you think?  Would you be calmed by a snake masseuse?

Friday, September 2, 2011

Advanced Canine Detectives

Today is the final installment of National Dog Day Heroes and I've been waiting since Tuesday to write about this group.  They don't necessarily fit the "Animals Help Heal" topic of the blog, but I think that their service should definitely be recognized.

With all that being said, today's spotlight is on Advanced Canine Detectives LLC for their use of dogs in discovering bed bugs.

This group brings dogs to hotels, hospitals, nursing homes, airlines, cruises and other places that bed bugs might go and the dogs are trained to sniff out living bed bugs and their eggs.  Advanced Canine Detectives report a 97% accuracy rate for their doggy companions.

The group offers its services in Connecticut, upstate New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia and Long Island.  So why would someone hire this group instead of something more traditional?  Their website lists several reasons, but one of my favorite is: "Dogs are Honest.  Dogs are trained to work for food and love... and NOT for profits."  To go along with that, the company also mentions on their homepage that they are not exterminators, they just find the bugs, so no conflict of interest there either.

One last thing about this group that endears them to me is that Mardi Gras, one of the beagles, is a Hurricane Katrina rescue dog.  I'm glad he or she has a new life with a sense of purpose.

So, would anyone hire this company next time you need to check for bed bugs?  I think it would be fun, just to see the dogs hunting.
He's not a Canine Detective but maybe someday he could be.  This is Rio, who is occasionally featured in a friend's blog:

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Autism Service Dogs

Autism is something that's been making the news a lot recently and today's National Dog Day hero is Yori, an Autism Service Dog.  Watch his video:

Yori was trained through Canine Companions for Independence which gives dogs to people with disabilities at no cost.  I have to say, that really makes me think highly of this group!  The only problem with that is CCI potentially has to turn people away because they can only accept a limited number of applicants each year.

While I was doing research for today's group I came across another group that also trains Autism Service Dogs, 4 Paws for Ability.  They differ in that, they don't give the dogs "for free" because it really costs $22,000 to raise and train these service dogs.  Instead, 4 Paws for Ability asks the family to help raise $13,000, which allows the families to potentially get the dogs quicker than waiting years to be accepted into another program.  On their website they mention that the fundraising generally takes 3-9 months.  Below is a video from someone working on fundraising for an Autism Service Dog for their son.  The video helps explain how Whit would benefit from the dog.  

I learned a lot from the video about what a parent to an autistic child has to deal with.  Having an Autism Service Dog could definitely give the parents some peace of mind.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Hope Animal-Assisted Crisis Response

This has been a busy year for our National Dog Day heroes that I'm recognizing today.  Hope Animal-Assisted Crisis Response uses their dogs to help people deal with crises and there have definitely been a lot of those in 2011.

This group currently has teams that visit natural disaster sites, shootings, train derailments, and memorials (to name a few examples).  Because a crisis situation often has loud noises, bad smells, and a lot of chaos, the dogs and humans are extremely well trained.  Hope AACR requires their teams to have been practicing AAT/AAA for at least a year before the team can start their AACR training.  The humans have to be especially alert because in crisis it is much easier for an animal to get stressed.  On top of that, these teams are made up of volunteers, which means that the people going to these nerve-wracking, heart wrenching scenes have to pay for their own transportation, vet bills, etc.

The interactions facilitated by these amazing teams are a fabulous pay off though, and make it all worth it!

Have you ever experienced a crisis?  How did you cope?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Puppies Behind Bars

Today's National Dog Day Heroes start out life in an unlikely place, prison.

The Puppies Behind Bars program brings 8 week old puppies to live and train in prisons.  The inmates are the dogs' sole caretaker.  While the puppies are growing and training, they are also teaching and helping.  The inmates learn how to be caring and compassionate because of their role.

This program has high expectations for these little puppies.  The end goal is that they will become Explosion Detection Dogs, Service Dogs, or companion dogs for soldiers returning from war.  How empowering for their trainers to know that their dog they worked with went on to save lives!

I noticed on their website that Puppies Behind Bars pays 100% for the cost of raising the puppies their food, vet services, educational supplies for the puppy raisers, teachers' salary, and travel.  Here's a link to some ways that you can support this awesome program.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Great Spot!

National Dog Day is celebrated every year on August 26th, since it's creation in 2004.  Last Friday I had every intention of posting about what a special day it was but that didn't end up happening.  So I decided that instead I will highlight a different group each day this week that uses dogs in a healing manner.

Today's amazing dog group is the Tennessee Safety Spotters.  This group uses Deaf dogs to get their message across and as you can guess by their name, their message is about safety.  One program teaches children about fire safety, another, focuses on preventing dog bites.  Getting children accustomed to a good sized dog, and how to behave around that animal, will teach them not to fear dogs and instead respect them.

When I was in school, the only "dog" that came to teach us about safety was someone dressed as McGruff.  As entertaining as that was, my classmates and I didn't learn anything about real police dogs, or what to do if we met a strange dog.

One other thing about the Tennessee Safety Spotters, the fact that they use Deaf dogs is a teaching tool in itself.  Children are able to see that being Deaf doesn't really make you that different.  These incredible dogs look like any other Dalmatian.  Instead of being handicapped, their extreme intelligence is displayed in their ability to understand sign language commands and perform activities like crawling under smoke and calling 911.

I think that the Tennessee Safety Spotters are definitely on to something.  They show that everyone has something to teach.  To borrow a quote from their website "These special dogs hear with their hearts, not with their ears."

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Reading is for the Dogs

© Charles B. Barton
Compulsory Education

I've always enjoyed reading, and I never minded reading in front of my class, especially if I could practice ahead of time.  But that's not the case for everyone.  For some, reading is a challenge, for others they don't like the attention of reading out loud.  Yet, round robin reading is still something that is used in classrooms everyday.

So why am I writing about this in my blog?  Because many places are using animals to help struggling readers.  Dogs are great listeners, they don't correct you when you don't pronounce a word right.  They don't even seem to care whether you are a slow reader or not.  Having a child read to a dog allows the child to practice reading aloud.  Different skills are used in silent reading vs. oral reading, so encouraging both types of reading is important.  Plus, having an animal around makes things more fun, and it's great for new readers to equate reading with fun.

I'm talking mainly about dogs as reading pals because all of the animal partner reading programs that I know of use dogs.  That might be because cats have a tendency to sit on the book when you are trying to read it, which isn't really conducive to reading.  Or is that just something that my cat does?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Faith, the Dog

Last week I introduced Ricochet, a "SURFice" dog.  Today I'd like to highlight Faith.  This amazing dog only has two legs but is able to get around on her own.  She does it by walking on her two hind legs!  Faith is often an inspiration to the people she meets allowing them to believe that they too can overcome enormous odds.

Listening to the different things Faith's family says, I hear all of the ways this dog has played a healing role.  She literally gave her human family faith again, she was an answer to their prayers.  She has been a therapy dog, a reading dog, and part of a motivational speaking team (her owner does the speaking).

Here's her website where you can see what she's up to.  I just found out that she was in New Orleans this past weekend, promoting the grand opening of Belladoggie, a place for your dog to go to heal.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Animals in the Office

I talked about animals in the classroom but what about the workplace?  I'm lucky enough to be employed at the Audubon Zoo where there are all kinds of exotic creatures.  The thing is, the animals that do the most "work" are two guinea pigs named Betty and Veronica, that live in the education office.

These two little girls are called on when the workload it too much.  Just holding a guinea pig, takes the tension out of your body and the longer you hold one, your stress seems to melt away.  For that time period, you are lulled into a sense of calm by the purring noise they make when you stroke them.  After letting Veronica nestle against your body, you feel refreshed and ready to work again.  That rude person that was on the phone doesn't matter because Betty will still show you affection.

The fact that positivity breeds positivity, means that even just sharing an office space with these two happy guinea pigs brings up the morale.  I could be working on writing confirmation letters, a dull tedious task, and suddenly I hear Betty bucking like a bronco in her enclosure and it brings a smile to my face.  (In guinea pigs that bucking behavior is called "popcorning" and is a sign of happiness.)

Maybe this is why some companies started participating in "take your dog to work day".  People are starting to realize that animal are beneficial to adults as well as children.  Have you ever taken a pet to work?  Or worked somewhere that had an "office pet"?  Mark your calendar for next year's date June 22, 2012 and see if you can detect a difference when you add an animal to your office.
Monica snuggling Betty

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Green Chimneys

Green Chimneys uses animals (wildlife, farm animals and service dogs) to help heal many different groups of people.  Children with mental health issues, children with learning disorders, physically challenged youth, "at risk" youth, runaways and homeless youth, LBQTA, and adults with mental retardation all interact with the animals at Green Chimneys.

Rosie, the dog that went to court, was one of the dogs that went through a Green Chimneys program.

This is a place that I've wanted to be a part of ever since I heard about it.  Right now they have lots of job openings, along with internship and volunteer opportunities.  I have to finish PT school, but then this is the type of thing that I am interested in doing.

Here's a video:

I'm really excited that Dr. Ross, the man that started it all, mentioned that he wants Green Chimneys to be a model.  Maybe he can help me start my own program   in New Orleans.

Here's a shorter video for people with short attention spans:

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Sunny's Ears

My family got on this kick watching Feature Films for Families and every holiday my siblings and I would each get a new video.  One Christmas I got the movie Sunny's Ears which I thought was perfect for me.

The movie is about Sunny, a teenage girl that is deaf as a result of meningitis.  She still talks, but can no longer hear and has to read lips.  Her family, specifically her father, has a hard time dealing with the fact that he has to sign now to communicate with his daughter.  One day Sunny is saved from being hit by a car.  Her rescuer?  A stray dog.  Sunny is determined to keep the dog, but her dad (a postman) is not too keen on this idea.  When she see's a flyer about dog training she persuades her parents that the dog can be trained to help her hear.  Ears (what she ends up naming the dog) proves to be as helpful as Sunny had hoped.  Not only is Sunny able to be more independent, but she has a new friend that doesn't care whether she can hear or not.

This movie has really stuck with me.  While talking to my mom tonight about it, she shared her surprise  that I remembered as much of it as I did, since I hadn't seen it in over 10 years.  Sunny's Ears introduced me to the idea of a "hearing ear dog", or really just the fact that animals can be used for more than assisting visually impaired people.  I had always wanted a dog, and I found Sunny's plan to train a service dog a great reason to get a pet.  It didn't work on my parents.  (Oh well!)  But, I believe that it helped lead me to my position at the Audubon Zoo, and even to my dream job of Animal Assisted Physical Therapy.  If Ears can be a hearing ear dog, why can't a guinea pig be a physical therapy animal?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Service animals vs Therapy animals

Boaz isn't a service dog or a therapy dog, but he still knows basic commands, like "sit"

In the previous post I highlighted Richochet, a dog that trained since birth to be a service dog.  Unfortunately parts of her personality didn't fit some of the requirements to be a service dog.  She was lucky enough to have found a different way to work with people in a healing manner.  I would almost even say that she is a therapy animal instead.

So what exactly is the difference?

Service animals are defined in the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA).  The animals are working animals (not pets!), and are trained to assist a person with disabilities with everyday tasks.  For example, Ricochet was taught how to open doors, turn on lights, unzip zippers, etc.  

The ADA protects people with service animals, allowing their animals to accompany them into businesses.  Basically, these animals allow people with disabilities to be independent.  Instead of having to rely on a friend to take them to run their errands, they can work with their service animal to complete their "to do list".  Having a service animal can be a very empowering thing for someone with a disability.

Because service animals are relied on so heavily they are extremely well trained, usually with training beginning when the animal is very young.  A person's life can depend on the training of a service animal so training is strict.  These animals usually aren't supposed to be interacted with (so no petting)  while they are working so they aren't distracted from their responsibilities.

Therapy animals, on the other hand, usually work with many people.  Most often their role is to act as a comforter, motivator, or educational tool.  Therapy animals quite often are the handler's pet and a handler could be anyone from a volunteer to healthcare staff, teacher, psychologist, etc.  

The animals are chosen to be therapy animals based on their personality and ability to follow basic commands. There are a few different groups that can certify your pet to be a therapy animal.  An animal can become a therapy animal at any age, although usually they don't start until they are older and calmer.

One important thing to keep in mind is that handlers, and people that interact with therapy animals are not protected under the ADA, so that means that your therapy animal is not allowed in businesses (unless the business welcomes animals).

If you are interested in your animal (whether it is a cat, dog, rabbit, guinea pig, or lizard) becoming a therapy animal here's a webpage that lists programs in different states.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Amazing, Inspiring Dog

Unfortunately, Ricochet couldn't be a service dog, but she is still helping and giving hope to millions of people.    Make sure you have some tissues nearby.

A Dog Helps Too Much?

Recently the NY Times presented a legal debate that some therapy animals might "help" too much.  The article is about Rosie, a golden retriever, who went on the stand with a rape victim.  The accused was convicted and the defense team thinks that Rosie is partly responsible for that.  They believe that the jury might have been swayed by the cuteness of the dog, rather than the facts.

What do you think?  Should animals be allowed on the stand?  Why or why not?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Cats in the Classroom

Julia sleeping
So, I was still trying to figure out the name of the school that had a cat and I thought perhaps I'd find the answer on the internet.  Instead I found something even better.

If you are thinking about bringing a cat into the classroom, "Cats Protection" in the UK has developed curriculum that revolves around cats.  Or you can say that it highlights how cats can be used to teach curriculum.

Need to get the kids excited about the history lesson for the day?  Tell them a cat's role in that time period or place.  The kids want proof that math is used in the real world?  Have them figure out the cost of owning a cat.

They have a range of activities that allow your classroom cat to be the inspiration and motivation for the kids to stay engaged in the lesson.  Just click here to get the PDF.

I wish I could take credit for the idea, but like I said it was created by "Cats Protection" in the UK who have their own blog.  I'd love to hear if someone uses anything from the curriculum, or changes it to fit their classroom pet.

Animals as Medicine?

My husband was talking to me tonight about some of the children that he works with.  One child can be described as "active".  He always seems to be in motion, whether it's dancing in his seat or moving about the classroom when he should be sitting.  You might imagine that the child is ADHD, and that might be true, I don't know.  You might believe that the child would benefit from medication.  I would probably disagree, unless you are suggesting nontraditional medication.  My first thought as my husband described the situation was, I wonder if they could have a cat in the classroom...

While I was the Zoomobile Coordinator I visited a school that had a cat.  This cat roamed freely from classroom to classroom.  It was a stray that showed up on campus one day and since the school had a bit of a rat problem they let the cat stay.  The cat turned out to be more useful than just solving the rat problem.  One teacher shared that the children will lean down and stroke the cat if it came by, but it isn't actually a distraction at all.  The children make sure to check the water and food bowls (kept in the hallway) and actually learn a bit about pet care and responsibility.  I wish I could remember the school's name, that had the cat.  Or the cat's name for that matter.

Maybe if there was a cat in the classroom for the little boy at my husband's school, he would be less of a distraction in class.  He could still be "active" but his activity would be stroking a cat, which is known to have a calming effect.  What if instead of ADHD medication we allowed touchable animals in the classroom?

My cat, Rocky, as a baby
Rocky surveying the neighborhood
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