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e all have heard that animals provide therapy. There are therapy and emotional support animals, and organizations such as Animal Assisted Happiness that support this. However, what exactly do animals do? What do they provide? In Pet Therapy, Anna Zernone Giorgi examines the benefits and healing properties that animals bring to humans: “Pet therapy builds on the pre-existing human-animal bond. Interacting with a friendly pet can help many physical and mental issues. It can help reduce blood pressure and improve overall cardiovascular health. It can also release endorphins that produce a calming effect. This can help alleviate pain, reduce stress, and improve your overall psychological state.” Giorgi also explains that animal therapy may provide benefits such as the following: making you happier, lessening depression, improving your outlook on life, decreasing loneliness and isolation by giving you a companion, reducing boredom, reducing anxiety due to its calming effects, and helping children learn empathetic and nurturing skills. As a volunteer at AAH, I have noticed a wide variety of disabilities in the people who the organization serves. Simone says, “We don’t ask what the disabilities are, whether they’re invisible or visible. We see it all, whether it’s the autism spectrum, kids in wheelchairs, whatever disability they have, anything goes.” (Haroush) The fact that they don’t ask about the specific disability is something that’s so miraculous and beautiful about AAH. They don’t need to know the disability or ability of a child in order to help them; they just bring animals to the children and help spread happiness and smiles to all. When Fraser Met Billy by Louise Booth is a book about a boy named Fraser, who has Autism, and how the transformative power of animal connection from his cat, Billy, impacted his life. The author is actually the mother of Fraser, and in the dedication

of the book, she writes, “I know somewhere out there, is me five years ago, someone who is facing the same enormities, despair, and isolation that I faced when I gave birth to Fraser in March 2008. This book is written for that person. I want it to help them see that there is hope at the other end of what seems like a very long, dark tunnel. You can get there, I promise.” In this heartfelt introduction, Booth relates to other parents who struggle with having a child with a disability, and provides them this book as an example of hope in these types of situations. Animal Assisted Happiness does the same: by providing children with animals, they provide them unconditional love, without judgement, and without hesitation or fear.

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Book by Olivia Aherns  

Book by Olivia Aherns