By Crystal Harrell
For the rest of the month of September, Animal Samaritans has teamed up with the Palm Desert Library for Paws & Pages—a children’s program that utilizes service dogs during reading time activities. The whole month of September is dedicated to service dogs, and with Paws & Pages, some service animals will be very special guests at the library every Tuesday and Thursday this month at 10:30 a.m.
“This a wonderful program that kids enjoy. They like to practice reading books to our service dogs, and it is a unique experience to encourage them to read,” shared Animal Samaritans Volunteer Coordinator Sara Jimenez.
Animal Samaritans is a no-kill shelter acting as a refuge for at-risk, adoptable dogs and cats. Animal Samaritans also houses, feeds, socializes, and provides medical care for these animals until they are matched with their new humans and forever homes.
Animal Samaritans provides quality, affordable full-service standard veterinary care from medical facilities in Indio and Thousand Palms. They also offer financial aid for qualifying low-income pet owners. Animal Samaritans provides state-accredited, grade-appropriate humane education to all of the Coachella Valley schools, at no cost to students or the schools.
The Animal Companion Therapy program utilizes the healing power of animal-human connection and provides free animal visits to residents of area nursing homes and assisted living facilities, special needs facilities, and area hospitals. Animal Samaritans has provided animal companion therapy in the Coachella Valley for more than 25 years.
Animal Samaritans believes in the healing power of animal-human connections. People have recognized this capacity for millennia and it is part of the reason why the relationships between humans and animal friends are so meaningful. They are bonds as strong as family, and Animal Samaritans honors them as such.
Because of this, Animal Samaritans created healing curricula that offer animal companionship as a form of treatment. These animal-assisted interventions are endorsed by human healthcare providers as cost-effective interventions for specific patient populations in these various facilities. Animal Samaritans brings specially trained animals to hospitals, group homes, correctional facilities, to senior homes and more.
There are different types of animal companion therapy. Animal Companion Therapy (ACT) dogs visit nursing homes, assisted living, hospitals, and many other types of facilities, helping patients feel at ease in a stressful setting. There are also reading programs where qualified ACT dogs visit schools and local libraries with a mission to improve children’s reading skills.
ACT dogs also participate in Humane Education Presentations where they work with the Humane Educators at Animal Samaritans to bring therapy dogs into classrooms during presentations.
Studies show animals, especially dogs, can have significant influence on mental and physical health in humans, particularly during times of stress, crisis, illness, and loss. Being in the presence of an animal or petting an animal has a calming effect.
Patients with hypertension have a decrease in blood pressure when interacting with a service dog, and the dog is calmer as well. There is also a 37 percent drop in anxiety levels prior to a medical procedure when time is spent with a dog just before the procedure. A decrease in minor health problems are also seen in those people who bring pets into their lives, and those who have pets, recover quicker from mental health problems.
Studies have also shown that abused children respond well to pet therapy, as they will talk to a dog when they will not talk to an adult or therapist. Abused adults recover more quickly emotionally when pet therapy is added. Children with low reading skills improve significantly when they can read out loud to a dog. It is a non-threatening, supportive environment, as no criticism from the dog builds confidence.
Animal Samaritans is always seeking volunteers. For more information on ACT or to ask about volunteering, email email@example.com.