An inside look at the benefits of therapy dogs on childhood development, overall wellness and workplace happiness
Written by guest blogger Lynn Ritter, Caring Angels volunteer
Noodle has a huge heart and has yet to meet a person she doesn’t like. She wants to be everyone’s friend, and more specifically, she wants to snuggle in the lap of everyone she meets. Our bond was immediate, but I also knew there was something special about this dog. She had a loving personality that I wanted to share with others, and when I learned about therapy dogs, I knew that this was her calling.
Extensive research has been conducted on therapy dogs and their impact on people. Petting a dog significantly reduces stress and anxiety by reducing the amount of cortisol in the bloodstream. Research has shown that a person experiences a dramatic and measurable decrease in heart rate and blood pressure when he or she interacts with a therapy dog. Additionally, petting a dog stimulates production of oxytocin and the release of endorphins, diminishing feelings of pain, depression and loneliness.
Therapy dogs can be beneficial in places such as hospitals and nursing homes where lowering blood pressure and diminishing depression can lead to faster healing and happier lives. But therapy dogs do even more than this.
Additional studies have shown that reading out loud helps children learn to read faster. Because dogs are non-judgmental by nature and crave attention, we have combined the two by developing reading programs for children to read aloud to dogs. The children learn to read, and the dogs get one-on-one time. It’s a win-win.
Once I discovered all the wonderful places that I could visit now that Noodle was a certified therapy dog, I jumped right into the game and joined Caring Angels Therapy Dogs. Recently, Caring Angels partnered with Northern Virginia Family Service to provide therapy dogs at various events and locations. Noodle has attended holiday parties, visited guests at the SERVE and Hilda Barg shelters and provided a break for staff.
“NVFS’ partnership with Caring Angels is valuable because our missions align,” shares Director of Community & Volunteer Engagement Karen Horowitz. “We are both dedicated to supporting each other’s organizations, as well as sharing new experiences with those we serve. Caring Angels volunteers are able to stay engaged with their community while providing a service to our clients and staff that has a tremendous self-care impact and vice versa.”
This has been a particularly rewarding partnership because of the incredible work that NVFS does within every aspect of our community. It is an honor to work with them.
“It’s a great way to reset and refocus for the remainder of the day,” an NVFS employee shared on her experience attending a Caring Angels workshop. “Caring Angels volunteers are able to stay engaged with their community while providing a service to our clients and staff that has a tremendous self-care impact and vice versa.”
Guests at the shelters have talked to me about their dogs and shown me pictures, but unfortunately no longer have their pets by their side. Caring Angels Therapy Dogs fill that void, if only for a moment. I love to watch children who have never pet a dog come up to her and witnessing a smile spread across their face as they interact with a dog for the first time.
“There’s no better feeling than when a dog comes straight to you,” shared another NVFS employee. “The love is so pure that even if you’re having a cruddy day, this moment makes it way better.”
I have found it incredibly rewarding to be able to share Noodle’s special talents with my community. NVFS has provided Caring Angels with a way to not only give back to our community, but truly make a difference in the lives of children and adults, and partnering with NVFS has been a truly rewarding experience.
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