Animal Assisted Therapy
Service Dog Training » Animal Assisted Therapy
The Humane Age - Origins
Animals have been reared and tamed by human beings since ages now. Cows were domesticated, horses were domesticated, but out of all these, one important pet creatures that the humans didn't face much of a problem in domesticating were the dogs. They have been the best friends of human beings since ages. Back then in the 14th century, a popular tribe of people from Mexico known as the Aztecs believed them to be God's angels, who descended from the skies to help in healing them. They believed them to be useful in healing joint pains and stomach aches. The Aztecs loved, admired and worshiped them. The one breed that was common and the most worshiped by them at that time was Xolo (now known as the Mexican Hairless Dog). In today's world they are aslo referred as canines (for their sharp and prominent canine teeth), tail-waggers, and many more names based on their peculiar habits or features.
In 1295, he took birth, whom we know today as St. Roch- the patron saint of dogs. Often we come across his statues or idols with a dog sitting at his feet. The story behind this dates back to 1300's, when after giving away all his inherited wealth and possessions, Roch took to traveling through the cities and towns of France, in order to find God. At that time, as fate would have it, a large scale epidemic broke out due to which many people died. He went on traveling and healing people with what are believed to be his magical powers. But one day, the infection got him and he went to a forest to rest and spend his last few hours in peace. It was then that, in that forest a dog arrived and on seeing his in such condition, started to lick his feet, which were full of bruises. From that day onwards, it regularly brought a loaf of bread every day for Roch. Gradually, Roch healed completely and stood on his feet once again, thus accepting dogs to be healers of humanity. From that day, people always saw Roch walking along with dogs to where ever he went. He kept healing people and earning their love and soon people gave him the name -St. Roch- the patron saint of dogs.
The Age of Highbrows and the Seeds of AAT
It is believed that around 17th century, the rich and the influential started the fashion of being accompanied by their canines, while being in the coziness of their warm homes, or while walking down the cobbled streets of the town, or for that matter, while moving down the roads in their carriages. Wherever they went, their dogs went with them, irrespective of whether thier pets were small, large, with silky coat, or with clipped attires to their bodies. As this trend started to catch public's frenzy, this fashion trickled down from the highbrow families to the middle class families too. This was the time of science when it started to take a deep interest in dogs and arrived at a theory, corroborated with the past, that dogs had a special healing power. As the years passed, this theory, already set in motion, was further put to test by providing patients in hospitals with small domestic animals. A distinct change was observed in a few days of such an unheard of blasphemous medical practice- the patients had started to show the signs of improvement in their health. Many of the silent types started talking, the loners started coming out for socializing, and the angry and violent ones mellowed in their nature. Soon, dogs were started to be given to children, the rationale being- the children will learn to care and grow responsible when entrusted with the keeping of a dog. This move was advocated by John Locke, a renowned philosopher and physician of that great Enlightenment era of 18th century Europe.
The First AAT Cases in:
- Mental Health- York Retreat, a mental healthcare institution situated in Lamel Hill, York, in England, was the place where the first documented Animal Assisted Therapy case took place. Under the guidance of William Tuke, this program was implemented in which patients were given small domestic animals with whom they roamed around in the foyers and the courtyards and the gardens of the hospital. The idea was to get them in touch with their real emotions of love and care. This uplifted the spirits of the patients and in keeping with the proper caring of their pets, they grew more mentally-active and stable. Thus, a landmark achievement was made to the credit of all the preachers of humanitarianism and love.
- In US military- During the Second World War, from 1944-45, the US Army station in New York, used dogs, cats and other such pets to treat their soldiers (those who suffered from severe psychological and physical trauma) using the previously proven test results of the Animal Assisted Therapy.
- In Child Therapies- Boris Levinson, a child psychologist, in 1970's, shared his theories and tests with the world, stating that AAT was very beneficial in treating children for their psychological problems. Initially rebuked for his ardent thinking, he finally proved his point by getting some four hundred questionnaires filled by various psychologists, maximum of whom reiterated and confirmed this theory of Boris Levinson stating that they, themselves had previously tested the use of pets in child psychology and that too with remarkable outcomes.
Today, thanks to all the for bearers of this theory, we have a separate, specialized branch in animal assisted therapy that has given rise to many new service dog training centers around the globe. These service dog training centers provide hundreds of needy patients with a faithful companion every year, thus spreading joy of unconditional love and speedy psychological and physical recovery in them.
Several new categories of such service dogs have been given birth to for ease of discourse, these can be categorised based on the services such as - hearing, guide (for the visually challenged), psychiatric or PTSD, seizure alert and mobility aid (to accompany and help the patients on wheelchair).