Whether their job is to assist a child with limited mobility or simply provide comforting snuggles and companionship, wish animals change the lives of their little humans for the better.
Jade (above) wished for a Jack Russell terrier named Snoopy to help keep her active when her lupus slows her down (check out the video to see how Snoopy feels about his new role – best friend!).
The benefits of interactions between kids and animals goes beyond the home. Researchers have shown the positive health-related effects therapy dogs bring to children with critical illnesses, helping them cope with their diagnosis and treatments.
Amy McCullough, Ph.D., National Director of Humane Research and Therapy for the American Humane Association, led a research study in which children in treatment for cancer had a weekly visit with a therapy dog. The children and families were able to pet and talk to the dogs, brush them, learn their breeds and watch dogs practice tricks.
Findings from the study showed that children in the therapy dog group demonstrated:
- Lower blood pressure
- Increased exercise and socialization
- Feeling more at ease and brighter spirits
- Lower depression, feelings of isolation/ loneliness
- Decreased need for pain medications in those who suffer from chronic pain
There were benefits for the parents as well. “Seeing their child comforted by a therapy dog helped reduce the emotional distress for parents. It’s something that the whole family can improve from,” McCullough said.
Mayo Clinic oncologist Dr. Edward Creagan says, “A pet is a medication without side effects that has so many benefits. I can’t always explain it myself, but for years now I’ve seen how instances of having a pet are like an effective drug—it really does help people.”