The Benefits of Animal Assisted Therapy From the Dog’s Perspective [INTERVIEW]

Sonny – Registered Therapy Dog

Connecticut Home Care News: Animal Assisted Therapy for Seniors is Here!

Sonny It is a beautiful spring morning when I arrive at the offices of Assisted Living Services, Inc. for work. Today is a special day because I’m here to interview one of the most popular Animal therapists in all of Connecticut for this blog. His name is Sonny, and he’s a dog.

Sonny recently became a Registered Therapy Animal through an organization called Pet Partners and he now works at Assisted Living Service, Inc. (ALS)! Sonny’s humans, Ron and Sharon D’Aquila, are the founders of ALS, and they recently became Registered Therapy Animal Handlers through Pet Partners.

Ron, Sharon and Sonny now make complementary home visits to Assisted Living Services, Inc. clients. We believe this is the only service like this in the state of Connecticut!

Sonny as a Puppy

Here’s my interview with Sonny:

Photo Dec 05, 1 27 08 PMGood morning Sonny. Congratulations on becoming a Registered Therapy Animal with Pet Partners! Would you mind if I asked you some questions about the NEW Animal Assisted Therapy Visit Program now offered by Assisted Living Services, Inc.? 

(A quick thump of his tail lets me know he approves).

Sonny, you already have a huge fan base in Connecticut. You may, in fact, be the most popular golden retriever in the state. Can you tell us about your work with Connecticut seniors?

I am what is known as a visitation pet therapy dog. That means I visit seniors in their homes. Many of them live alone and feel isolated. And let’s be honest. Who doesn’t love a dog? You can look it up online, but visits from me help Assisted Living Services, Inc. clients in lots of ways. Spending time with a pet therapist is known to help decrease blood pressure and relieve anxiety.

I can also help get older folks moving again. They might not be willing to go for a walk with their caregiver. But when I arrive at their house, they are suddenly ready and willing and we head out for a stroll.

I’ve also read that animal-assisted therapists, like you, can help with depression?

That is true. The experts at that National Institute of Mental Health believe it is because therapists like me help people feel an emotional connection. That’s good for the soul. When people feel engaged with life, they are able to overcome depression more easily.

Do you and your pet therapy colleagues work exclusively with the elderly?

Older adults and caregivers in Connecticut are my focus. But I have colleagues that specialize in other areas. My colleague Dr. Jack, for example, works for the Mayo Clinic. He is a miniature pinscher, so he doesn’t have my same good looks. But he’s popular with kids in Rochester, Minnesota.

He is a part of the Mayo Clinic Caring Canines program. He helps people recovering from accidents and injuries. If you visit the Mayo Clinic Caring Canines program online, you can read about one of my favorite success stories. Dr. Jack and his trainer worked with a 5-year old little girl who had spinal surgery.

Dr. Jack helped her learn to walk again by taking a step backwards each time she took a step forward. He was able to keep her moving. Then she was finally able to use a walker to take Dr. Jack for walks. Good stuff!

For friends who might be reading this but live outside of Connecticut, how can they find a pet therapist for a loved one in their area?

There are two good organizations I support that can help connect people with pet therapists. One is the Delta Society and the other is the American Humane Association.

I know you have to get back to work. Do you have any final thoughts for our readers today Sonny?

I do have one request. That is for readers to reach out to the seniors in their communities. Take your well-behaved dog to visit an elderly neighbor. Volunteer to deliver Mobile Meals in your community. Call your local United Way or senior center to find out who needs a little extra time and attention.

As Sonny and I shake hand-to-paw to end the interview, I have to agree with his fans. I am definitely feeling relaxed and less stressed. We’re lucky to have Sonny. He is clearly a therapist who puts his heart and all four paws into his work:)

Ron_Sharon_Sonny1Sonny with Owners Ron and Sharon D’Aquila

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