The Human-Animal Connection: A Guide for Non-Pet OwnersWritten by M.L. Scott
While images of agitated activists hurling paint at fur-clad celebrities may not present animal lovers in their best light, relationship between humans and animals has many fascinating aspects that even non-pet owners may find intriguing. More than little fur balls requiring intermittent petting; animals make numerous contributions to human world and reveal compelling insights about our humanity. Enlightening and sometimes disturbing, human-animal connection has significance that reaches far beyond kennel to realm of psychiatric community, Congress and even FBI.
Though many are familiar with roles of guide dogs, assistance animals enrich human lives in ways that almost defy imagination. Their contributions are vast and varied. Therapy animals have been documented as lowering blood pressure, anxiety and distress in humans. They have frequently been used in hospitals, nursing homes, even mental institutions. They are also used in disaster situations. In September 11 tragedy, many victims and rescue workers at World Trade Center found comfort and solace in therapy dogs that were sometimes able to connect with humans more directly than human counselors. The duties they performed at Ground Zero put a new perspective on this type of therapy.
Such animals work with abused and traumatized children or help disabled learn motor skills everyday. Sometimes therapy is induced by simple petting or companionship that an animal can offer, but other forms are more specific. Equitherapy is a form of therapy assisted by horses that means “treatment with help of a horse.” In equitherapy, horse helps rider rather than traditional activity in which rider controls movements of horse. The freedom of being on a horse can simply help by inspiring confidence with control such movement can induce. The rhythmic and repetitive motion of a horse’s gait provides other sensory benefits. The Therapeutic Riding Center of Israel has an indoor riding arena of 2000 square meters and a professional staff that includes physiotherapists and certified, experienced riding instructors. Professional doctors, psychologists, physiotherapists, and educational advisors supervise staff. More information on their program can be found at http://www.trci.org.il. Even capuchin monkeys have been trained to assist quadriplegic individuals. Quadriplegics have limited or no control over their arms and legs. These monkeys not only help such individuals relieve loneliness such a predicament can produce, but they can perform simple tasks such as turning on and off lights or getting something to eat. Helping Hands is an incredible organization at http://www.helpinghandsmonkeys.org/ which charges no fees for performing such services. On a darker note, while one would be foolish to make claim that a dislike of animals is a reflection of a criminal mind, psychologists have noted a disturbing link between animal cruelty and violence against humans. In fact, standard diagnostic and treatment manual for psychiatric and emotional disorders used by psychiatrists and psychologists lists cruelty to animals as a diagnostic criterion for conduct disorders. A recent scientific study actually documents link between animal cruelty and human violence and concludes that offenders of violent crimes are significantly more likely to have abused pets and stray animals in their childhood than non-violent criminals. University of South Florida professor Kathleen Heide and animal welfare expert Linda Merz-Perez came to this conclusion after an examination of a random sample of approximately 100 male violent and non-violent inmates at a maximum-security facility.
Certainly, “animal abuse” and “cruelty” are open to interpretation. They may include behaviors such as neglect, intentional abuse, torture or killing. Instances of neglect are not always a symptom of a personality disorder and may even occur unintentionally. Education is a practical means of addressing some instances of neglect. In fact, that is one of purposes of such sites as Adoring Pets at www.AdoringPets.com. By familiarizing public with proper care of animals and their contributions, Adoring Pets hopes not only to educate people about ways in which they can benefit animals, but about how animals benefit humans every day.
Lessons in Love for the Shy at HeartWritten by Jennifer G. Smith
One of biggest regrets of my life is that I was cursed with shyness gene. Shyness is an often misunderstood condition that can leave afflicted alone and miserable. As a victim of shyness, I completely understand pitfalls. I also understand that there are levels of condition that start at “painfully shy” or (as I think it is referred to nowadays) “social anxiety” to simply being “uncomfortable” at parties. More outgoing people tend to brush off shyness as something that is easy to get over. However those of us who suffer with it day after day realize that it would be comparable to asking an alcoholic to stop drinking. Doable, yes – but easy? Hardly! But whatever your comfort level, shyness does not have to be a life sentence of aloneness - there is still someone out there for you.
I have more than once longed for days where parents were required to find mates for their children, fully realizing downside of that prospect as well. But considering those days are long gone in our free society, it is time to look at many other varied options available to lovelorn today. Unfortunately most of us aren’t lucky enough for love to just find us. In spite of this there are still those who fall in love with their available classmates, co-workers, or brothers/sisters of their best friends. Another “charmed” way is to have a good friend look through their personal Rolodex and pull out name of that perfect person. I, for one, have never had a single friend with a connection to someone who would be right for me. I would even venture to say that life is just not that easy for majority of us out there. Also for many people, not just shy, bar and club hopping has just plain gotten old. And although it is still possible, placing a blind ad for love in a newspaper or magazine is a daunting proposition at best.