Associate Photo Editor
If you happened to stop by the Wellness Fair that occurred campus this past week, chances are you would have seen a group of vested furry friends being pet by many smiling students. Most likely, this probably isn’t the first time you have seen these delightful dogs on campus.
But what are they here for?
These dogs that occasionally drop by for a visit are known as therapy dogs, coming from KPETS (Keystone Enhanced Therapy Services), located in Lancaster. KPETS is one of many organizations in the country who focus on using pets as a therapeutic tool for helping those with physical, emotional and mental challenges in any stage of life, their mission is to “touch lives and warm hearts.”
On their brochure, KPETS states it is a network of specially trained and registered teams consisting of people and their own pets who are committed to sharing these therapeutic benefits the pets provide, these volunteers contributing over 9,000 hours of therapy annually. There are 350 volunteer teams servicing over 200 facilities in ten counties in South Central PA and Northern MD. Needless to say, KPETS is an exceptionally busy organization, dedicated to helping those in need with the help of these very loving animals, and all these services they provide are free.
Many may not realize the benefits of what this kind of therapy has to offer. Sure, there are professionally trained animals that help serve those who are disabled, such as the blind, but they can serve more of an emotional purpose. Pet therapy allows patients to cuddle and play with the animals. This can be a very calming and warming experience, as playing with a pet can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine.
According to helpguide.org, there are many ways pets can improve your mood and health, studies showing that pet owners are less likely to suffer from depression, have lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels, and pet owners make 30 percent less trips to the doctor than those who do not own pets. Pets can also help you adapt to a healthier lifestyle, providing companionship, increasing exercise, reducing anxiety and stress, and helping you provide structure and routine to your day.
Dogs and cats are not the only pets that can provide these benefits, studies have also shown that even watching a fish tank can reduce muscle tension and pulse rate. This therapy can help anyone at any age, such as seniors in nursing homes, hospital patients, children with disabilities, at-risk, and any time when human and animal interaction is beneficial. No wonder the therapy dogs drop by during finals!
There are many ways to get involved with KPETS if you are interested in sharing the joy of your pet to others. The registration process consists of an orientation, a therapy dog workshop assessment and two on-site/training evaluations for the handler and pet as a team. If you do not have a pet and still would like to get involved, you can support KPETS by becoming a Paw or Resource Sponsor, provide a donation, or volunteer.
To learn more about animal therapy or supporting KPETS, visit www.KPETS.org or call 888-685-7387.