Posted: February 23rd, 2012
Dogs are the new miracle treatment. They can make practically anything better. Dogs can help with reading, learning, stress, pain, disabilities and more. Dogs help out in libraries, schools, universities, and yes, believe it or not, even law schools.
Therapy in the form of canine companionship is commonplace now. Hospitals and nursing homes are scheduling visits from therapy dogs more and more to help soothe pain and promote small moments of joy and fun. Dogs are placed in homes to assist those with disabilities and other impairments – help that is both physical and mental. A recent New York Times article tells the story of Iyel, a child born with fetal alcohol syndrome, and his therapy dog, Chancer, who changed his life and that of his distressed family. Chancer is trained to disrupt tantrums and can sense and diffuse the child’s meltdowns that had once occurred with alarming frequency. According to the article, therapy dogs can be especially effective at helping children with behavior disorders or autism because dogs are non-judgmental. They love their person unconditionally and are hard-wired to watch their person and react to changes in behavior. Dogs have evolved over thousands of years to closely observe, know, and like humans; all traits that make them ideal trusted friends and helpers.
If you have a dog, or any kind of pet for that matter, doubtless you’ve found yourself carrying on conversations with your animal. According to one expert, 48 percent of adults confide in their dogs. Sometimes it’s just easier to talk to a dog rather than a human. And when you gripe to your dog about your professor or the driver who rudely cut you off in traffic – you know they understand (well, sort of). That canine-human connection is being used to help young children read. Just as you talk to your dog, children like to read to dogs, and those with reading deficiencies are more comfortable reading to a dog than a teacher or parent. Dogs are now part of public library programs across the country to help struggling readers practice and improve by reading a story to a dog. An article in Library Journal about these therapy dog programs cites a Tufts University finding that struggling readers who took part in a study made more progress when they read to dogs than those who read to humans. No word on how much the dogs learn or whether they prefer Where the Wild Things Are to Green Eggs and Ham.
School-age children aren’t the only ones who are helped by interacting with dogs. Even students in higher education can benefit from fur therapy. The University of Connecticut, M.I.T, and the University of San Diego have brought in therapy dogs to help relieve students’ stress during exams. Law schools have been trying this out as well. The libraries at both Yale and the University of San Francisco Schools of Law check out therapy dogs to students during exams. The Yale Law School Library “circulated” Monty, a border terrier mix and certified therapy dog, as part of a pilot program last spring to promote “calmness” and support “emotional well-being.” Monty even has a record in the library’s online catalog:
The University of San Francisco Law Library brought in Sophia Loren (a pit bull/Weimaraner mix that is) and other canine therapists. Students can reserve a 10 minute session with one of the dogs by signing up in the Library. According to an article in AALL Spectrum the program has been enormously successful – they had to add additional sessions to meet demand and they plan to make dog therapy a regular part of the exam period in future semesters.
Over the next few months you may occasionally see Sparky, a service dog-in-training, who will be accompanying a 1L in the The Professional Center Library. Sparky is being trained to assist the physically disabled. The Library doesn’t have a dog available for check out though – yet. In the meantime, as a substitute we offer the following pictures of dogs of library staff. It’s ok if you pet the screen – we understand.
And for the cat lovers out there, this is for you . . .