Animal assisted therapy is not a game or trivial pastime. It can be part or all of an effective treatment plan for a long list of disorders ranging from cerebral palsy to attention deficit disorder, and may succeed at bringing about a healing response when many other therapies have failed.
Aloha again Lovely Readers,
As some of you may remember, my house rabbit, Satine Bunny, is a certified emotional support animal. She is soul food for my senses, and an essential part of managing my (mental) and physical health as I find my way out of the maze of pain and permanent nerve damage. Just her very adora-bunniness is good medicine. Be it watching her stand on her hind legs to stretch up and snack on a juicy sweet red hibiscus, receiving her warm parsley scented kisses as she snuggles and purrs next to me, or stroking her silky soft black fur when I can’t sleep in the middle of the night…. I can’t imagine life without her. So when she got sick recently, we scrambled to find a vet here on Oahu that specializes in rabbits.
Thank goddess for Dr. Hertzog at the Makai Animal clinic in Kailua. I can’t recommend their friendly, highly skilled staff enough. They called us at home daily to check on her progress, diagnosed an eye infection that had been missed by her previous vet, and best of all restored her to health by advising us to stop feeding her dried timothy pellets and to go all greens and grasses. This being the rabbit equivilant of kicking white flour, sugar and dairy. My “middle aged”, seemingly sedentary rabbit, is like a young, curious, bun again!! Although Kailua it is a bit of a drive from Waikiki, If you’ve never been on the windward side of the Island, don’t miss this charming, laid-back town. Here in hot, traffic laden Oahu, Kailua is as cool and close as Oahu comes to the friendly, relaxed, big country town, aloha spirit feeling of living on Maui (our other Island home).
Animal assisted therapy (AAT) uses trained animals to enhance an individual’s physical, emotional and social well-being, thus improving self-esteem, reducing anxiety and facilitating healing.The use of AAT reportedly dates back to the 1940s, when an army corporal brought his Yorkshire Terrier to a hospital to cheer wounded soldiers. There was such a positive response that the dog continued to comfort others for 12 more years.
Speaking of Maui, rabbits and the aloha spirit…..My friend,medical hypnotherapist, Shannon Dominguez, spearheads Maui’s HakuBaldwin Center. Their mission is to foster therapeutic partnerships between people and animals which they believe promotes the growth and development of healing relationships among all living beings. To this end, they offer the following programs free of charge:
- Therapeutic Horseback Riding for children with special needs-Offered each Monday and Tuesday by appointment , riders receive personal instruction on horseback involving a range of therapeutic games and activities
- Horsemanship for Veterans
- Animal-Assisted Therapy and Activities
The AAT/AAA program visits over 400 patients monthly utilizing small therapy animals (dogs, rabbits, guinea pigs, duck and chickens – yes chickens. It is common to see chickens and their off spring literally crossing the road, in Makawo where the Haku Baldwin Center is centrally and spectacularly located. Their therapeutic programs are dedicated to helping children and adults with special needs, patients and seniors in hospitals, rehabilitation, convalescent, assisted-care, pediatric, adult-day care and Alzheimer facilities. And just recently, visits to Maui Memorial Medical Center’s psychiatric units for adult and adolescents were added to the list! One of the most fundamental advantages of animal assisted therapy over other therapeutic modalities is that it provides the patient a much-needed opportunity to give affection as well as receive it. It is this reciprocity – rare among medical therapies – that makes AAT a unique, and valuable route to healing.
Volunteers are always needed for all programs-this is how I first met Shannon and discovered that there was such a thing as a therapy rabbit. The minimum age to volunteer is 16. And for those of you just passing through, vacation volunteers are warmly welcomed! The life enhancing and healing capacity of touch, and of companion animals such as dogs and cats is well documented. But until now I’d never heard of therapy llamas. So in honor of the HakuBaldwin Center’s recent 100th birthday —-and Satine’s recovery, I thought I’d talk about the Center and share this article from the Mother Nature Network with you.