NewBeginnings Gayla 01KENTUCKY (4/15/13) - As I wrote earlier, I have a friend that went through a very traumatic year last year. She wanted something positive to come from her suffering. So, she birthed the idea of getting a group of people willing to make someone happy each month for 12 months. I felt so inspired by this that I wanted to share her vision with my readers. Today we are going to continue our year of kindness. Our focus this month is on animal assisted activities.

I believe that animals are pure beings that are here on earth to teach us how to love unconditionally. Animals can help with the experience of loneliness that some people may feel in nursing homes. They can ease fear that a child with a terminal illness may feel in the hospital. They can be a positive distraction for someone in jail. Animals can put a smile on the face of someone suffering from Alzheimer’s. Animals can bring people together and bring back fond memories.

My dog, Ellie, and I have been involved with animal assisted activities for six years now. I have seen first-hand how she has brought countless smiles to the elderly people we visit (some of these people have not smiled in a long time). I have witnessed how some of the people will not participate in activities, except for when Ellie comes to visit. I have seen tears of joy come to some of their eyes because my dog brings back memories of their beloved pets from the past. Ellie is cherished by many.

Do you love animals?
Do you have a passion for helping ease the pain of other’s loneliness?
Does the thought of a child suffering with a terminal illness pull at your heart strings?
Would you like to do something in memory of a loved one that you have lost due to cancer?
Pet therapy/animal assisted activities may be for you!

Here are steps that you can follow to starting your own pet therapy program:

1.    Get your pet a health check at your local veterinarian to make sure they are healthy and to get them up-to-date on vaccinations if needed.
2.    If you are planning on using a dog, have them go through the Canine Good Citizenship test. This test deems the dog as a candidate that works well with other people and dogs in their homes and in the community. For more information and to find a testing facility near you, go to:
3.    Talk to a nursing home, hospital, or similar facility in your city about bringing your pet in to visit with residents.
4.    Start off slow. If you have a family member in one of these facilities start off by bring your pet to visit them. There are different sounds and smells there that your animal must be comfortable with. The pet has to be calm and enjoy people and attention. The pet must not bite or scratch residents.

This random act of kindness can go on not only for one time, but for many, many years to come.

Can’t start your own animal assisted activity program? You can donate to one that is already established. Here is the website of one that I was impressed with:

The greatest use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast you. - William James


Check out my new blog – “Me…forgiven?”

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