Pet Therapy? Hywel Davies reflects on the mutual support offered by and to pets

In 1983 I spent three months as a psychiatric in-patient in St. David’s Hospital in Carmarthen in West Wales (UK). When I returned home to the farm where I lived with my parents in Pembrokeshire,I had no job,no professional prospects and I had been labelled by psychiatry as a “schizophrenic”.

I was in receipt of considerable psychiatric medication. In effect I was on my own in the world.

One day on the farm.I was putting in staples into stakes to secure the barbed wire in a nearby field. . I was unaccompanied as I worked.

Suddenly that afternoon two neighbouring sheep-dogs appeared. I had not seen them before. The dogs were happy and smiling. They were laughing. They had their tails in the air. I named the two dogs “Brownie” and “Blackie”. They were marvellous companions for me and my parents for about eight years after that initial meeting until the two dogs died. Alive,the dogs were kind,loving and faithful. I talked to them a lot. I patted them. They liked being made a fuss of. We enjoyed each other’s company. On a Sunday “Blackie” used to often go into the neighbouring small church and make a fuss of the members of the congregation. The two dogs liked people. They lived on a neighbour’s farm but sometimes they visited us on our farm in West Wales.

On her final day alive “Brownie” visited us on our farm to say goodbye. She had been accidentally poisoned on the neighbouring farm and she came to say goodbye. In desperation that day she would roll herself in the puddles of water to cool her body down. She knew that she was dying. That was a very emotional moment for us all.

Dogs can emotionally help autistic children and the mentally “Ill” in my opinion. It is a mutual help.

Certain stories in the UK press reveal occasionally that children with autism can benefit emotionally from having contact with a pet in the family (eg. a dog,a cat or a hamster).

What happens to children with autism when they become adults ? There are 600,000 people with autism in the UK. Two UK charities that help autistic people include the “National Autistic Society” and “Autistica” .

Do some autistic children in Wales and in the world become labelled in adulthood by psychiatry as “schizophrenic” ? Do certain voice hearers benefit emotionally from being in contact with a pet (eg. a dog,a cat or a hamster) ?

We would be glad to receive your stories and/or your views.

Here are some links that provide more information about pet therapy:

The Truth About Animal-Assisted Therapy: You know the impact your pet has on your life. But can the same sense of healing, security and unconditional love that your furry friend gives you be transferred in therapy? This is a question people like Amy McCullough, M.A., and Cynthia Chandler, Ed.D., are answering with a definitive “Yes.”

Therapy Pets We are all familiar with guide dogs, the way they help their owner overcome physical disability is breathtaking, but did you know there is now an acknowledged need for therapy dogs? A therapy dog’s role is to help reduce anxieties and build confidence whilst providing companionship for an owner who is experiencing mental illness or distress.

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