Pets and Children – A Magical Combination

Over the years, I have watched and personally witnessed the magical power of pets and children. Having a pet in a child’s life can help in the early cognitive development, encouraging them to crawl and then walk, and later help boost a child’s IQ and reading skills. My daughter, Sarah, learned how to walk by having the determination to get our dog Rocky’s furry tail. Countless schools have programs with children reading to dogs. By the scent of a dog’s treat on the pages within the book, the child believes the dog is trying to read along with them, when really it is sniffing for the treat. The dog’s focus on the pages encourages the child to want to read longer.

Studies have shown, that having a pet can lower blood pressure and heart rate, and reduce anxiety. Depression is a common mental illness. One teenage girl was hospitalized for severe depression and suicidal tendencies. Nothing seemed to help her. Dogs were brought in for visits. Gradually the girl began to feel better. She went home and began volunteering at the local shelter, where she walked dogs. She even adopted a couple of kittens, and gradually recovered from the illness.

Pet therapy is the healing power of animals. They have the power to comfort through unconditional love, the power to ease our pain, and the power to give us the strength and courage to keep going when life hands us a difficult situation to deal with. Animals used in pet therapy include dogs, cats, rabbits, horses, chickens, donkeys, llamas, and even pot- bellied pigs.

My own dog, Rocky, helped me through a debilitating disease, and gave me the strength and courage to keep hanging on to life. Through his unconditional love, I was able to survive! I feel everything in our life happens for a reason. I now speak about pet therapy to others and use my dogs to help many children cope.

Rocky passed away in 2001 but will forever live in my heart. I have written a children’s book series titled, “Rocky’s Journey”, in his memory. My first book in the series, “Rocky’s Trip To The Hospital,” is based on my own story of triumphing over sickness, through the power of pet therapy. I take this book along with my certified pet therapy dogs, Molly and Willy, into Children’s Hospitals. I share with the children my story, read them Rocky’s book, and then the dogs do their magic.

Many of the children I visit have been hospitalized for weeks. They are depressed, missing their normal life at home, missing their friends, and if they have one, missing their pet. When the children see the dogs, with their wagging tails, they brighten right up. You can see the life literally coming back into these children. Laughter fills their eyes, huge smiles appear on their tiny faces, and positive energy fills the room. Hospital life can be very scary for children. I watch the dogs cuddling their furry bodies into the children, licking them and comforting them. Some of the children will even share their fears with the dogs. They talk out loud to the dogs, saying things they don’t tell others. Every child says the dogs visit has helped them feel better. I know that it also helps the parents cope.
Willy has a very special gift. He has a comical snore. He will curl up beside a child, and while they are petting him, he becomes relaxed. The more relaxed he is, the louder and deeper the snore becomes. Even the sickest child will laugh at this. This comical snore helps the children take their focus off their pain.

When a nurse, or parent, is having a difficult time convincing a child to take their medicine, Molly comes to the rescue. With her big brown eyes, she stares at the child. Molly will reach out her paw to them and wag her tail. If they take the medicine, Molly will do a trick for them, and they are allowed to give her a treat. For every sip of medicine they have to take, Molly reaches out her paw and will do a different trick. This encourages the children to quickly finish the medicine, so that they can give Molly more treats, and see all her tricks. Molly has been successful with every child.

I paid a visit to one very sick child, in her hospital room. She had gone through three surgeries in one week. She was weak and very pale, and had been focusing on how terrible her pain was. I read her my book, “Rocky’s Trip To The Hospital”. Because the dog was in the lounge area, and could not come to her room, I gave her an autographed photo of us. As she was gazing at the photo, I observed a sparkle appear in her eyes, and the colour came back to her cheeks. She asked me if I would help her into a wheelchair, so she could go down to the lounge and pet the dog. With the nurse’s approval we headed out. The nurse agreed with me, that a visit to the dog would be great medicine for this child. Just seeing the wagging tail waiting to greet her, gave her strength and a more positive attitude. Only half an hour earlier, she had been in her bed, too weak to move, and now she was asking to take the dog for a walk down the hall herself. She said she felt strong enough to use her arms to wheel the chair, while hanging on to the leash. She was glowing as she accomplished this task. We all watched with joy in our hearts and tears in our eyes.

Pet therapy can occur anywhere. Recently at a school, where I was giving a presentation about pet therapy, a little boy slowly walked up to the front of the room with his head hanging. He had such sadness written all over his young face. When he finally got up beside me, he began to cry, and he shared his story with me. He said that he wished my dog had been with his grandfather the night before. His grandfather had died alone, and this terribly upset the little boy. Before I could say anything, Willy who was lying quietly on the floor beside us, sat up and reached out to the little boy. It was clear that Willy sensed his pain. The boy held Willy tightly in his arms. With Willy licking the tears away, we all watched as a smile appeared on the boy’s tiny face. One hundred and twenty children, at that presentation, witnessed the power of pet therapy. Willy showed unconditional love for a child in pain.

Pets are magical. They sense our needs and comfort us. They truly give unconditional love. I would encourage you to make a difference for your child, by bringing an animal into their life! It can be a wonderful learning experience, and also be very healing!

Sue London
Spiritual Life Coach/ People & Pet Therapist/ Reiki Master / Radio Host/ Author/ Motivational Speaker/ Expert on pet therapy

To learn more about Sue London visit www.asksuelondon.com

Author's Bio: 

Sue London

Most people will experience some kind of difficult or traumatic situation in their lives. Sadly, many will face it alone with little or no support. Through her writing and personal appearances, Sue London offers caring support and optimism to people who are suffering.

On May 1st, 1989 Sue London stared blankly at the ceiling of her doctor’s office, thinking “Why me?” Sue had just been told she had Crohn’s disease. Crohn’s is a chronic intestinal disorder, which causes severe abdominal pain, cramping, fatigue and diarrhea.

Surgery soon followed to remove fistulas. She was told that a colostomy was a likely next step. Sue fought back, seeking out alternative therapy to help her cope with the disease. When she became pregnant with her second child, Sue was told it was unlikely she could deliver the baby she was carrying. The disease had flared up and her health was in grave danger. In March of 1993, Sue delivered a healthy baby girl and the disease went into remission.

In 1996 Sue’s illness flared up again and her intestine burst. She was rushed to the hospital and doctors predicted that she was just 30 minutes from death. Fortunately, a talented surgeon was able to act quickly and save her life. Following this dramatic event, Sue began to take pro-active steps to health and happiness. Faced with a giant STOP SIGN, Sue made the left turn of a lifetime, adopted a positive outlook and never looked back! Throughout this amazing journey, Sue’s dog, Rocky (a Shih-Tzu) remained a devoted companion. Rocky helped Sue to realize the positives in her life, providing constant unconditional love.

Sue began writing stories about a magical dog named Rocky, and his many encounters with people in need, as a way of helping her deal with her own health problems. Sue finds writing and speaking about the many stories that have touched her both therapeutic and rewarding. She inspires audiences, both young and old, to do the things that they’ve postponed for too long. She encourages people to adopt a positive attitude and stay true to their dreams – as she has done so successfully.

Sue’s illness is in remission. She feels great and is enjoying life in Burlington, Ontario, Canada, where she writes children’s books and speaks professionally. In Sue’s spare time she can be found in many children’s hospitals and nursing homes volunteering with her dogs, Willy and Molly, doing pet therapy and touching countless of peoples lives. Sue has recently been nominated for Halton’s Woman of the Year 2004 for all her dedication to helping others.

You may contact Sue London at 1-888-812-1181, or www.asksuelondon.com