Rewards are many for the newly recovered. So are challenges.
It makes sense after a long day of ups and downs to be greeted at the door by someone with unconditional love like Cole, our house dog. He is are a constant reminder of what unconditional love looks and feels like. By caring for them, residents understand what it means to take care of a living being. From the start, his positive effects on resident's physical and mental well-being have been well documented. It seems they can speed the healing process by reintroducing the power of feeling connection.
Our Four Legged Friends
Cole is not the only animal that has been shown to help in a therapeutic setting. Our program includes horses at a near-by horse farm. The research states that horses are “perfect mirrors, since they are very emotional beings” which allows those participating in equine therapy to experience human-like interactions with someone that doesn't shame or guilt. Imagine having reactions to events that are not intertwined with an ego; good, bad or apathetic, they are simply your feelings.
How does a dog or a horse reach someone who is emotionally like a deflated balloon? The answer seems to be that sometimes only an animal can provide an objective reflection. Animals give you "feedback" but do not criticize in any way. For some, the horse or dog may allow self-reflection that initiates a change. In the first few months of recovery, a resident is sometimes emotionally cut-off and only one of our dogs or horses can provide a connection. Sometimes, that's how change begins, one little change at a time.