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Pets as Therapy

This past Friday was the first time this semester I returned to the Cambridge Rehabilitation and Nursing Center with my PBHA program Pets as Therapy. PBHA, or the Philips Brooks House Association, is a public service based organization that runs about a hundred programs from Harvard’s campus all around the greater Boston area.

I chose to participate in Pets as Therapy for two reasons. Firstly, I miss my dog Cleo so much when I’m at school. It’s harder to be away from pets while at school because you can’t exactly talk to them on the phone or Skype them. The second reason I participate in Pets as Therapy is the time I get to spend with the elderly residents there. It’s nice to know that my presence there is a highlight of their day because they do not get out and about too much.

Last semester, I brought a dog named Harvey to the nursing home with me. Harvey is a one year old French bulldog who has an insane amount of energy. He would always greet me with a lot of licking and jumping around whenever I picked him up to go to the nursing home every Friday. Harvey is definitely a sparkplug and loves to play with the other dogs in the program as well as just run around and sniff things. This semester he could only come to two Fridays, so I was assigned a new dog.

 

This is Harvey, my first semester Pets as Therapy dog.
Above: This is Harvey, my first semester Pets as Therapy dog.

That new dog is Sadie, a beautiful Golden Retriever that reminds me a lot of my Cleo back home (probably because she pulls on the leash when I walk her). Sadie definitely has a personality of her own and loves being the center of attention. In fact, she loves it so much that she will actually bark when you stop petting her or paying attention to her. She’s kind of a diva, but I love her already. 

Sadie The Magnificent
Above: Sadie The Magnificent

It’s a different dynamic bringing Sadie to visit instead of Harvey. Being a bigger dog, a lot of the residents are afraid of Sadie because of her deep bark and larger paws. But once they get to know her they really love petting her shaggy fur. Some of the conversations that come out of the time spent at the nursing home really make the trip worthwhile. One of the residents I talked to last week actually used to take in injured dogs and horses and nurse them back to health because his town didn’t have a veterinarian. Another man told me that his family once own three Great Danes at once- that’s a lot of dog to have running around at once.

Pets as Therapy provides me with a time where I can get off campus and interact with people other than college students and teachers. Bring able to bring a little happiness into other people’s lives is a great start to my weekend and getting to know the residents a little bit better each week makes me very excited for the future. 

About the author

Hi there! My name is Ariel Smolik-Valles and I’m a senior at the College, originally from Des Plaines, Illinois, which is right outside of Chicago (best city in the world, sorry Boston). On campus... View full profile

Comments (1)

on July 22, 2017 pm31 16:45

Thank you very much for your article on Pets as Therapy. We operate a senior home care company (http://www.ComfortingHome.com) and have found that therapy dogs can dramatically improve the health of seniors.

I enjoyed you reference to the Great Dane. We own a Great Dane. He’s not a therapy dog, but he impersonates one pretty well. We have one client that owned Danes when she was younger and she just lights up when she sees him.

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