Saturday, September 18, 2010

After looking at pets as shoppers and as teachers, I now look at them as healers in the third part of my 'pet series'. My! It never struck me that pets could don so many different avatars (till I actually sat to think about it) and so successfully at that! The idea of pets as healers triggered off when I came across an article today on 'Llama therapy'.  I had heard about animals like dogs, cats, birds, fish, dolphin, etc being used in animal therapy.But the concept of using exotic pets such as llamas in healing was somewhat new to me.Llama therapy is extremely effective. The llama's loveable, gentle and friendly nature can contribute a lot to the well being of the specially abled, autistic, children and elders.
What made the llama stand out in comparison to other therapy animals was that apart from having really soft fur (stroking the wool has an immense therapeutic effect), it also has soft pads instead of hooves, so it's unlikely for the patients to get hurt if a llama steps on their feet. Llamas are also hypoallergenic, so they won't cause an allergy in the people they interact with. So, I was indeed impressed with this form of therapy.
 Even the other forms of pet therapy, using the more conventional animals have a high success rate.Human beings would instantly respond to the unconditional warmth and affection, displayed by the animals that would be beneficial for their growth and development physically, mentally and emotionally, as numerous cases have shown.

However, meaningful benefit can only be derived, if appropriate care is taken. Caution has to be taken against any form of pet abuse. Also, since therapy pets are frequently taken to visit hospitals, there's a high risk of the animals getting infected.Hence, adequate health precautions for the animals should be taken, without fail.
As a kind of solution to the problem above, Japan introduced robotic pet therapy in 2005, in the form of Paro, an interactive robotic pet (below) that looked like a baby seal. It performed the same functions as a live therapy animal minus its disadvantages such as the risk of getting infected and requiring low maintenance.

Courtesy:Worms and Germs Blog
  Yet, I feel a machine cannot substitute the real, in terms of emotion and bonding, no matter how much it resembles the real animal and regardless of the other advantages it has over the 'live' pet therapy.

Pet therapy may have its own risks and disadvantages, but on the whole, it is very effective, natural (where pets can do the trick, why depend on drugs and medicines) and will definitely bring a smile to anybody's face!

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