Many individuals are unable to have pets in their lives and miss the companionship and joy an animal can provide. They may be residents of an assisted living facility, patients in a hospital or rehab center, children living in a receiving home or even college students who need to de-stress during a heavy finals schedule. Regular visits from furry friends through the Sacramento SPCA’s Love on Loan program can make all the difference in someone’s life.
The Love on Loan program (just one of many animal-assisted therapy programs across the country) was started in 1984 by Sacramento SPCA staff and volunteers. The program enlists volunteers who take their own pets on visits to local nursing homes and children’s homes. Interaction with animals can be a powerful tool for igniting personal growth and transforming everyday experiences for seniors and children. Companion animals are remarkable because they have the ability to reach out to people on a very fundamental level.
The Love on Loan program was an immediate success, giving seniors and children an opportunity to experience the unconditional love and acceptance of a dog, cat or rabbit.
The benefits of animal-assisted therapy are well documented. In hospitals, nursing homes and hospices across America, dogs, cats, rabbits and other friendly animals are brightening the lives of folks who are physically or mentally ill, seriously depressed, or lonely. Research continues to verify the value of the relationship between animals and humans. Animals provide a silent, nonjudgmental presence that allows people to reveal the extent of inner feelings or suffering that could not be possible with a human-to-human interaction.
Social workers and psychologists who bring companion animals into nursing homes as part of their work with elderly people report that nursing home residents who refuse to interact with any of the people around them spontaneously and immediately open up to animals. People who haven’t spoken in months talk to a puppy. It can break them out of their shell, and after one or two visits with a dog, they start responding to other things.
It can be wonderful for people to feel like they have a pet again.
The Sacramento SPCA Love on Loan program is just one of the many outreach programs benefiting both pets and people. For more information about this program, please contact Marnie Musser at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (916) 504-2847.