Published on October 20, 2016

Look who’s here!

Pet therapy brightens moods and eases pains

Lap dogFew visitors get a warmer welcome at Mercy LIFE centers than Archie. Even though he doesn’t say a word, he does wag his tail—a lot.

Archie is the star of a pet therapy program available at Mercy LIFE. “Our participants just light up when they see him,” says Chanel Coleman, CTRS, the recreation therapy supervisor at Mercy LIFE Broad Street.

Archie isn’t the only animal winning hearts, however. He arrives with a mix of bunnies and guinea pigs and their therapist handler.

Lifting spirits

Simply stroking animals releases hormones that help boost mood. That means the pets are especially good for participants who feel anxious or sad. They also help distract participants from pain, such as arthritis pain.

And they often help stimulate the memory of those with Alzheimer’s.

“Someone might say, ‘Oh, I remember when I was a little girl, I had a dog too,’” Coleman says. “It’s amazing how Archie, in particular, helps engage our participants with dementia.”

The benefits don’t end when the animals go home.

“After spending time with the pet therapy animals, participants leave the center all excited and talking about their experiences,” Coleman says.