April 30, 2016 is National Therapy Animal Day. Pet Partners, one of the largest organizations to test and promote therapy animals, declared this a day to celebrate the contributions of therapy animals to the lives of so many people. Therapy animals and their human partners bring comfort and healing to those in need. Therapy animals bring their unique form of helping to hospitals, pediatric care units, schools and nursing homes. Pet Partners created this day to recognize and honor therapy animals and to raise awareness and educate the public about the role therapy animals play in enhancing human well being. This is also a day to thank the thousands of dedicated volunteers and their animal partners who bring their compassion and understanding to therapy animal visits throughout the year.
My corgis, Winston and Comet, were both therapy dogs tested by Pet Partners and the Delta Society, and Canine Good Citizens. They visited schools, nursing homes, and worked beside me in outpatient physical therapy practices. Many kinds of animals, not just dogs and cats, bring joy to people in the capacity of a therapy animal. Lucky, my mom’s miniature horse, has made nursing home visits, and many small pets such as guinea pigs, rabbits, and even chickens have been wonderful therapy animals. Every Pet Partner team can share stories of the miracles therapy animals have brought to people’s lives.
So take time today to send thanks to these animal/human teams. You may want to look into bringing your dog for a Canine Good Citizen test, the first step to becoming a therapy dog. You can also check with facilities near you that may be in need of therapy animals and find local therapy animal groups in your area that may be able to add some new places to those they serve. For instance, the Shriner’s hospital near me will only allow therapy animal teams that include a Mason or a Shriner, so one dedicated volunteer nearby coordinated teams and set up a training program for the men and their pets so that children at Shriner’s can enjoy therapy animal visits. There are also many veterans services organizations looking for therapy animal teams. And of course, spend some extra time appreciating your own animal for the many therapeutic benefits he or she brings to your own life. This day is about the connections we have with all animals, especially those closest to us.