About Happy Tails
Animal-Assisted Activity (AAA) is our most popular and most common form of therapy interaction. Our members and their pets visit hospitals, nursing homes, mental facilities, and rehabilitation centers.
These visits are informal and help people who have to be away from home due to mental or physical illness or court order. These people often miss their own pets, and a visit from a visitation animal can brighten the day, lift spirits, and help motivate them in their therapy or treatment with the goal of going home to see their own pets.
Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT) is a different kind of therapy in which pets are used in conjunction with physical and occupational therapy sessions, paired with a client and a professional healthcare or human services professional who has a goal sheet for each visit.
Tasks that a pet can help achieve include gaining motion in limbs, fine motor control, or regaining pet care skills for caring for pets at home.
READing Paws utilizes nationally registered animal-owner/handler Therapy Teams who volunteer to go to schools, libraries and many other settings as reading companions for children. This allows children to practice their reading skills in a safe space free of judgment and criticism.
Happy Tails volunteer teams provide physical, social, emotional, and cognitive therapy to people of all ages. Most people we visit often focus more on the fun they are having instead of the therapeutic benefits they receive!
Regular team visits can be arranged on weekdays, weeknights or weekends, seven days a week. We also provide one-time special visits upon request and based on availability. There is no charge to receive the services provided by Happy Tails volunteers. Please contact us at least forty-five days in advance of a special visit request.
If you are interested in receiving animal-assisted therapy or activity visits by a Happy Tails team at your facility or would like to request a special one-time visit, please click below.
The Benefits of Pet Therapy
Animal-assisted therapy and activity visits provide numerous cognitive, physical, social and emotional benefits.
In a less active environment, such as a hospice or assisted living facility, your visit will provide stimulation, conversation, companionship, and sensory gratification to the patient, as well as comfort to the caretaker and family members. An entertaining animal, such as one that knows tricks, provides a welcome diversion to distract a resident from pain. Smiles and laughter are also great medicine.
Even an animal that “only” has a sweet face and a gentle touch makes a valuable contribution in any kind of setting. Cat, rabbit, show dog or shelter dog, Happy Tails has a visit for you and your pet.
On a visit, a volunteer may start a conversation by asking, “Have you ever owned a pet?” When patients talk about pets they used to own, remember information about the therapy animal, or talk about animals in general, they are developing cognitive and knowledge skills.
Asking the patient to recall information about a pet, or asking a patient to give a sequence of cues to a dog, can exercise memory skills.
Speech and Communication
Simply discussing a pet can strengthen speech and communication skills. Calling a dog, giving a dog cues, and talking to or about a cat all work the patient’s vocal volume and breath support, and help increase vocal clarity and language production. Encouraging the patient to describe objects, formulate short phrases or converse with a rabbit are all ways for her to practice verbal expression, and require the patient to focus attention on a pet, the task, and the therapist.
Walking a dog, playing a game of fetch, reaching to touch a cat, or bending to pet your rabbit all increase gross motor skills.
Animal-assisted therapy can help with a variety of physical, occupational, and speech therapy goals. For increased upper extremity range of motion, the patient can throw an object for your dog to retrieve, use hand signals to cue your dog, use a leash to maneuver him, and pat, stroke, or brush your pet.
Balance and Coordination
To work on balance, a patient may pet or brush a cat from various positions or throw an object for a dog to retrieve, also from various positions.
For mobility, the patient can walk with a volunteer and their dog using a second leash or “walk” a dog from their wheelchair. Reaching for a toy a dog has retrieved, brushing a cat, or patting a rabbit can strengthen coordination skills.
People who are depressed or lonely may respond more subtly to the unconditional love that a pet offers.
The smiles and conversation that follow may be a major step in that person’s battle against depression, may aid to increase self-esteem, and reduce anxiety and loneliness. Patients whose emotional pain has isolated them from others may joyfully join in a group conversation about their own beloved animals as they interact with a therapy animal.
Relaxation and Stress Relief
Interacting with a well-behaved and well-trained therapy animal has been clinically proven to release calmin endorphins in the brain, which causes an automatic relaxation response. This is believed to even reduce the amount of medication that some patients need to withstand physical pain.
Cardio Vascular Health
The calming effect of AAA can also reduce blood pressure, which promotes cardiovascular health without the use of additional medication.
READing Paws is a specialized program that pairs early learners with trained therapy dogs and cats to promote and encourage children struggling to read. Dogs and cats in this program undergo specific training related to assisting young readers and often perform visits at schools, bookstores, and libraries.
When children are able to practice reading without the pressure of grades or criticism, it reduces anxiety and has been shown to improve reading levels.