By Mary Beth Coniglio
PAWS of CNY volunteers recently had an opportunity to provide both wellness and education services at the same time. Volunteers participated in a pet therapy session at Liberty Resources in Cortland. To learn about the benefits of pet therapy, the session was observed by a class of 15 public health students from Onondaga-Cortland-Madison Boces interested in learning about the benefits of pet therapy.
The PAWS of CNY volunteers who attended the event included Sue Visconti and her Jack Russell Terrier mix Chloe, Eric Dayon and his Golden Retriever Cody, and Jessica Marabella and her Chocolate Labrador Blue.
The Liberty Resources Center for Brain Injury and Rehabilitation is a community-based program that provides support and services to assist individuals who have sustained a traumatic brain injury with successful inclusion within their community. The PAWS of CNY pet therapy program provided the residents with an opportunity to interact with loving, non-judgmental therapy dogs.
One wheelchair-bound patient pulled-out a pocket sized photo album and showed the volunteers a picture of his dog and family. There was a real connection made through the experience of interacting with animals.
A non-verbal resident could only move one hand slightly to pet the dogs. His therapist asked him to write down on a small dry eraser board if he liked the dog. He wrote “yes,” and wrote the word “dog” and then he wrote the word “smile.” Visiting with the dog made him happy and the volunteer could see in his eyes that he was smiling.
All the patients showed the volunteers and their dogs much love and appreciation. It was a very rewarding experience for the volunteers and the patients.