The Gift of Animal Helpers

Elvis (photo by Annette Carr)
Meet Elvis (photo by Annette Carr)

I don’t need an alarm clock. I have Elvis for that. No, not the King of Rock ’n’ Roll. Elvis is a black cat who I adopted several years ago at an animal shelter where I volunteer. Elvis has taken over my home, my heart, and my pillow. He acts like a supervisor and treats me like his staff. In the early hours of the morning, I am slapped from my dreams by a soft paw demanding attention, food, or just because he finds it amusing.

Many of the staff members who work with me at Touro Library know that I am an animal lover and a big advocate for pet adoption. I volunteer at a local animal shelter on my time off, so I am often trying to persuade my co-workers to adopt various fuzzy friends, much to their humorous chagrin and crazy-cat-lady jokes. But all kidding aside, I help animals because it is rewarding to be able to care for some of the most vulnerable creatures in our society. In addition to doing good deeds, I find being around animals incredibly comforting. Pets offer numerous benefits to their owners (or guardians as we say in pet-parent lingo). They offer companionship, unconditional acceptance, and allow people to express their need to care for another.

So what does this have to do with libraries you may ask?

Animals are increasingly being studied in various health and social science fields. The idea that animal companionship has positive effects on people has been explored and accepted by many professional communities.  Studies have shown that pet owners have a greater sense of well-being, social support, positive psychological outlook, and physical benefits over non-pet owners. Many fields such as psychology, social work, and health care are incorporating animal therapy into their processes. For example, aquarium therapy (where patients watch fish swimming in tanks) has been used to reduce anxiety and pulse rates in elderly patients. Another example is the increasing use of canine training programs in prisons whereby inmates train puppies to become guide dogs for the disabled. The teaching and companionship with the dogs gives the prisoners a sense of accomplishment as well as reducing stress rates and loneliness. Equine-assisted therapy has become a popular tool to help children and adults with physical and psychological disabilities such as cerebral palsy, autism, PTSD, and addiction.

It is fitting that students and faculty at Touro may want to incorporate animal therapy into some of their learning and teaching disciplines. And being the advocate I am, I also encourage everyone to go to their local animal shelter or PetFinder.com and consider inviting a furry (or scaly) friend into their life.

Touro Library Resources on Animal and Pet Therapy include:

book list
Click here to follow links to individual titles

 

In related news, this week the Bay Shore campus, sponsored by student government, will be welcoming a therapy dog to help students beat the stress of finals:

therapy-dog-flier

References:

Deaton, C. (2005). Humanizing Prisons with Animals: A Closer Look at “Cell Dogs” and Horse Programs in Correctional Institutions. Journal Of Correctional Education, 56(1), 46-62.

DeSchriver, M. M., Riddick, C. (1992). Effects of watching aquariums on elders’ stress. Anthrozoös, 4 (1), 44–48. doi:10.2752/089279391787057396.

Martens, P., Amiot, C., & Bastian, B. (2016). People and Companion Animals: It Takes Two to Tango. BioScience, biw051.

McConnell, A. R., Brown, C. M., Shoda, T. M., Stayton, L. E., & Martin, C. E. (2011). Friends with benefits: On the positive consequences of pet ownership. Journal Of Personality And Social Psychology, 101(6), 1239-1252. doi:10.1037/a0024506

Contributed by: Annette Carr, Business Librarian, Midtown & 65 Broadway

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One thought on “The Gift of Animal Helpers

  1. laurelscheinfeld December 13, 2016 / 12:14 pm

    Great post Annette. Elvis is adorable. The student government association here at the Bay Shore campus is bringing in a therapy dog this coming Thursday to help everyone de-stress during finals.

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