I was being half-mauled by a terrier. I was running an errand in an urban office and the dog’s owner was horrified. She apologized, explaining that her dog never did that.
In the dogs’ defense, I have a very special stink to my feet. I carry with me a cornucopia of delightful smells from several species in my barn. I smell like an exception to the rule.
Her dog was a therapy dog, she said. I smiled and replied, “All animals are therapy animals.” But I offended her and was told her dog had a certificate. I meant no disrespect. My dog, Hero, and I were spending an evening a week visiting in a nursing home at the time.
No one denies the value of a wide variety of service animals –the results are scientifically proven. Service dogs are capable of complex, near-magical tasks. Horses in handicapped riding programs reduce handlers to goose bumps and tears routinely.
I was born with a full set of senses. The hearing in my left ear was the first to go, thanks to a series of infections. I’m lucky to have dogs, llamas, and donkeys who warn me when visitors come up the driveway. My sense of smell is limited after a childhood incident with a sheep but not having a sense of smell in the barn isn’t the worst thing. If I triangulate llama gazes, or follow donkey ears, I see all kinds of things my eyes would miss.
Sure, I have lost some of my senses along the way but human senses are limited compared to most animals in the first place.
What about the other senses that animals improve -like a sense of confidence or safety? I don’t know a better kind of physical therapy for dealing with the loss of a loved one. Some of us find a sense of belonging with animals that we don’t find as sweet anywhere else. And animals don’t discriminate on grounds of disability, they help us all equally.
“All I pay my psychiatrist is the cost of feed and hay, and he’ll listen to me any day.” Anonymous
You have to ask yourself -hypothetically speaking- if someone who chose to live with the population of a small zoo would seem to imply a greater need for therapy than the average person -even need a staff of therapists?
I don’t think that’s true. Maybe a large animal family is actually a sign of extreme and abundant mental health.
Anna Blake, Infinity Farm.
(Photo: Shoes that make a good dog do bad.)