Therapy Benefits Veterans:
There are many ways that simply being around a therapy animal can help a veteran.
Taking care of a dog creates opportunities for the Veteran to be more sociable with others in a very natural and civil manner. The Veteran’s dog becomes the focal point of the initial encounter, which can serve as a great conversation starter and help the Veteran to relax.
Additionally, Veterans often become more willing to share their thoughts and feelings, reducing stress. Along these lines, pet therapy facilitates recovery, encouraging Veterans to reintegrate with their families, friends, and society. This socialization is equally important for the wellbeing of the dog.
Reduce depression and suicidal thoughts.
People are known to talk to their pets, constantly taking pictures of them and just hanging out with them. Feelings of depression will be reduced because of not feeling alone and having someone with whom to interact. This can also lower or disrupt suicidal thinking, and may even prevent a suicide from occurring. Simply put, being around a pet therapy animal will naturally make a person smile and feel happier.
Beyond acting as a therapist themselves, animals can also facilitate therapy as described above under socialization.
Physical and mental health benefits.
Studies show that animal-assisted therapy helps people recover from and better cope with health problems, such as heart disease, cancer, and mental health disorders. Part of this is likely due to the simple fact that taking care of an animal promotes more physical activities, such as walking, swimming, biking, and boating. When we exercise, our bodies release endorphins that come with health benefits.
Additionally, interacting with animals can increase a person’s level of the hormone oxytocin. Oxytocin helps us feel happy and trusting, and can even improve our body’s ability to heal and grow new cells.
Feeling of purpose.
Veterans tend to be natural protectors. They want to help others. They want to give. They want to be useful.
Adopting or fostering a rescue animal allows the veteran to provide for these needs, because they become responsible for the life of another living creature. Additionally, if the Veteran pursues pet therapy certification with their animal, it will enable them to give back to other Veterans and to society itself.