For years, Sunrise’s Lakeland Training program (TEC) had a resident tetra-pod or “Aves” — yes, a bird therapist named Ramsey. Ending a successful career of dedicated service, Ramsey recently retired and went on to new opportunities with a very loving family. While both excited and happy about Ramsey’s golden retirement, day center program trainees and staff alike missed their daily interactions with a pet therapist.
Of course, everyone can understand the loss. It doesn’t take a scientist to know that pets make humans feel good; anyone who’s ever stroked a dog’s fur or felt a cat’s thrumming purr knows this. Science can, however, tell us how and why pets can be therapeutic. Just 15 minutes bonding with an animal sets off a chemical chain reaction in the brain, lowering levels of the cortisol (fight-or-flight hormone) and increasing production of serotonin (the feel-good hormone.) The result: heart rate, blood pressure and stress levels immediately drop. Over the long term, pet and human interactions can lower cholesterol levels, fight depression and may even help protect against heart disease and stroke. This is why pets for people with intellectual and physical disabilities can be so beneficial.
Enter “Dr.” Willow and her associate, “Dr.” Bubba. Working with Lakeland’s SPCA, Sunrise’s Chief Philanthropy Officer, Rebecca McGuire, arranged for the adoption of two felines for TEC’s training center. Feline “office hours” opened on Friday, March 11th. The dynamic duo got straight to work. For while there is no cure for intellectual disability, the services and supports an individual receives plays an important role and can enable the person to thrive throughout their lifetime. Animals’ non-verbal communication and profound acceptance can be soothing for those with difficulty using language. Bonding with animals is a habilitative experience unmatched by another form of therapy for individuals with disabilities. Research continually indicates that animal assisted therapy and companion pets help people with intellectual and physical challenges reach personal goals, experience greater well-being, and improve physical, social, cognitive, emotional, and behavioral functioning. This is a vital part of providing adequate support to allow for full community inclusion which is an important part of Sunrise’s mission. We could not be happier with our newest team members.
Please help us welcome our youngest, furriest and cuddliest pet therapists to the Lakeland Training Center!