Today, the ability of animals to provide comfort to humans in times of grave illness or grief is recognized by medical professionals, therapists, and hospice workers around the world. People who are facing death or mourning the loss of a loved one are often calmed and reassured by the loving companionship of a pet.
We've all heard heartwarming stories about the amazing relationships between pets and humans. Pet animals are known for their unconditional love, and in times of stress, many seem to know instinctively just how to respond. In fact, most pet owners can tell you of a time when a loyal pet lay by their side, attentive and patient, while they were in bed with the flu. That same kind of response can provide immense comfort in loss and bereavement. Because pets are so undemanding, a suffering human can welcome the opportunity to touch or snuggle up with a pet with absolute trust.
For people facing death or living with bereavement, however, pet ownership isn't always practical. Sadly, the terminally ill are often forced to give up their beloved pets because they are no longer able to care for them. Clearly, letting go of a pet can compound the feelings of loss and sadness that are typical in such circumstances. And well-meaning friends may be misguided in suggesting that a non-pet owner get a pet for support in their bereavement following the death of a loved one. Grief is highly personal, and for the newly bereaved, taking on the responsibility of caring for a pet may be too much to manage.
In cases like these, Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) can help to improve the quality of life for the sick and the grieving who do not have pet animals of their own. AAT volunteers are specially trained individuals who bring their companion animals to homes and health care facilities to visit and interact with patients and their families who are confronting serious illness, death, and bereavement. By participating in AAT, people can benefit from contact with animals without the responsibility of pet ownership.
AAT has gained rapid acceptance as dozens of studies revealed the amazing impacts of pet-human relationships. For example:
At ABC, we are firm believers in the healing power of animals, in fact, we see it firsthand on a regular basis! Just 3 ½ years old, our very own “Comfort Cats” Smokey and the Bandit live in our warehouse and provide those who visit us with comfort during their difficult time!