I recently had the opportunity to attend a workshop on Solution-Focused Animal-Assisted Brief Therapy. It was taught by Teri Pichot of the Denver Center for SFBT and provided a wonderful introduction to the many ways animals can be a part of providing: service tasks for the disabled, emotional support for those dealing with life trauma and emotional pain, and assistance to therapists in a host of therapeutic tasks.
I joked with one of the workshop participants, (who directs an extensive animal therapy program) that the picture above was one of me attempting to do "goat yoga." I told her that I just couldn't get the goat to "jump up on my back." But, in reality this picture was taken last year while I was attending the Tulsa State Fair. One of my favorite places at the Fair is the "petting zoo" and I always have my picture taken with several of my friends. That's how I think of them and throughout the years I have had many of them...
I am not an animal-assisted therapist. The dogs I have owned throughout the years have never be trained as "therapy dogs." But all of the dogs and cats that I've owned (especially in adulthood) have played a "therapeutic" role in my life. For me, and countless others, the animals in my life have brought me: joy, companionship, security, peace, forgiveness, and love. The last pet I owned was a cat named "cry-baby." We. named him that because when he was a kitten he "meowed" so much. My wife one day said to him, "You are such a cry-baby" and the name stuck. However, as he grew he became a very affectionate cat and I I thought perhaps we should have named him "cuddles." I couldn't sit down and read my paper or drink a cup of coffee without cry-baby jumping up and cuddling into my lap. I often referred to him as my "therapy cat" because he frequently helped me "unwind" for a stressful day.
I am amazed at "services" some dogs can be trained to provide for the community. In times of disaster dogs can search for victims (both dead and alive) and lead rescue teams to the right place. Dogs can hunt for lost children, track dangerous criminals, identify the location of illegal drugs, provide guidance for the blind, calm the emotionally upset, alert individuals to certain medical emergencies; the list goes on and on.
So today I simply say, "Thank you God" that in the order of creation you provided for animals to be our friends. And thank you to all of the therapists who, along with their trained animals, assist so many in finding the healing and recovery that they long for.
Dr. Allen Schneider is a United Methodist pastor and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist presently serving the Sapulpa and greater Tulsa communities.