If you ask an animal person about the impact their pets have on their lives and emotions in particular, chances are that they’ll rave on and on about how much their walks with their dog brighten their days, or how as soon as they come home the sound of their cat chirping a hello brings a smile to their face. I’m admittedly one of the more exuberant of these animal people myself, and my four pets mean the world to me. Animals have a way of warming even the toughest of people with their eagerness to prove their appreciation for all the food, pets, and cuddles, and in return we receive a sense of being needed and loved unconditionally. Everyone wants to experience these feelings, and it makes sense; they release critical feel-good endorphins that you’ve probably heard about before if you’ve ever been told to smile when you’re feeling down. So it’s not a crazy notion that having animals around could help ease anxiety and stress levels, and provide long-term benefits for those who suffer from mental health issues.
It’s not uncommon for people to bring support animals with them wherever they go. In fact, the process of adopting a therapy animal has become a lot easier, and that’s a great improvement. These general benefits often consist of emotional factor boosts such as lessening the feeling of isolation or loneliness, strengthening communication and social skills, especially in children with speech and emotional disorders, lowering boredom, providing constant comfort, and reducing general anxiety. However, these are just a few major points on a long list of benefits, without even getting into some of the mind blowing things some animals have been specially trained to do to help people.
Something that is unbeknownst to many people is that while emotional support and therapy animals can be dogs, cats, birds, and many other species, service animals are almost exclusively dogs. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, a service animal means any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability. These tasks might include guiding someone who has a vision impairment, pulling a wheelchair, picking up dropped items, etc.
Emotional support animals aren’t restricted only to people with mental health issues, and anyone can benefit from their calm and cuddles! And even here at BHS, we’re lucky enough to be able to provide the student body with the opportunity to spend some quality time with therapy dogs on our own campus! Thanks to PAW club, we get monthly visits from all kinds of friendly dogs during lunch on the campus and it’s an awesome way to de-stress before fourth period with some adorable little guys! And the best part is- you get to have lunch plans without actually making plans, which is always great. Tune into the morning announcements during second period to find out when the next therapy dog visit is!