Two cuddly companions recently paid a visit to CUCS’ Delta Manor transitional housing program for homeless men with mental illness. Aside from their undeniable cuteness, it was apparent the immediate influence the dogs had on the residents.
Pets can have an invaluable impact on people, especially on those in recovery or going through a challenging period. Research shows that interacting with pets can reduce depression and anxiety, decrease blood pressure and loneliness, as well as improve mood and communication. Beginning in the 1970s, pets have been introduced within a variety of settings, such as hospitals, health care homes, and other treatment facilities because of this significant link between pets and people’s wellbeing.
An ongoing group discussion with residents at Delta Manor has been their desire for pet interaction, especially since residents are not allowed to have pets with them at the program. But Delta Manor staff found a wonderful solution.
Through much collaboration, New York Therapy Animals worked closely with Delta Manor staff member Chelsea Cathcart to bring pet therapy to the residents of Delta Manor for the very first time. Two therapy dogs came to Delta Manor on August 11th for the shelter’s first ever pet therapy session.
The dog teams, Barbara and ‘Lola’ (a Maltese/Yorkie) and Rox and ‘Wlly’ (a Shih Tzu), broke into two groups for the session. Residents were offered the opportunity to request tricks from Wlly and offer Wlly a treat. Wlly completed “high five”, “sit”, “roll”, “high ten”, and “shake” amongst other tricks. Lola, a very friendly smaller dog, mingled with the residents within the circle and allowing them to pet her and hold her.
The two dog therapy teams switched groups half way during the hour long session to allow all residents to interact with each team. The dog teams talked about favorite activities, treats, places, people and habits among other things. Residents were fully engaged within the activity for the full hour and expressed their desire to have the dogs stay longer at Delta Manor.
As a bimonthly group, Delta Manor hopes to continue to offer residents with the opportunity to interact with different pets and the positive health links that pet therapy can offer. With residents already experiencing multiple challenging psychosocial stressors, pet therapy may offer clients a supplemental experience within their road to recovery.