Animal Assisted Therapy

Posted: Jun 3, 2015 in June 2015

The Unofficial Sparks Street* Therapy Dog?


This past Friday Pavlov and I went for a walk along the Ottawa River path. By the time we looped around it was noon. It was a sunny day and Sparks Street was packed. We didn't make it more than a few steps before we were stopped. A man said: "Excuse me, but may I pet your dog?". I gave Pavlov the command (go say hello) and she ambled over. While he was scratching under her chin and looking into her eyes, he started to talk about what a stressful morning he had and how much better he felt after seeing Pavlov. We didn't make very far before a woman said: "Can I pet your dog? I'm away from home this week and I am feeling terribly lonely". This pattern, with minor alterations in topic, was repeated innumerable times as we walked along Sparks Street that day. Perfect strangers shared various parts of their day but all expressed gratitude regarding the benefits derived from the few moments they spent interacting with Pavlov. While this is a far cry from a randomized, controlled study, it is certainly consistent with my experiences surrounding Animal Assisted Therapy** or what some are now referring to as Animal Assisted Psychotherapy***.


*For those not intimate with Ottawa geography, Sparks Street is a pedestrian mall that runs Parallel to the Parliament buildings.


**Animal Assisted Therapy is defined in Aubrey H. Fine's book Handbook on Animal-Assisted Therapy: Theoretical Foundations and Guidelines by Stanley Coren, Ph.D. as "a form of therapy that involves using an animal as a fundamental part of a person's treatment".


***The term Animal Assisted Psychotherapy is used by a group of mental health professionals from all over the world to describe the provision of Psychotherapy in the context of the human animal bond.