OGEA Pets and Animal Friends
by Brianna Chenevey
If you’ve ever experienced the joys of having a pet, you know that just nuzzling up to an animal provides feelings of ease, relaxation, and comfort. Pets help lower anxiety, reduce loneliness, and can increase mental stimulation by helping provide a fun, uplifting distraction. Today, Goat Yoga and cat cafés are becoming more and more prevalent around the world. There is even Dog Café, located in Los Angeles, helping revolutionize dog adoption by serving coffee while offering a fun, sociable environment for humans and dogs to hang out with each other.
Additionally, animals are often used in hospitals, homes, and schools to help improve the well-being of others. So what is a therapy animal? Unlike service animals, therapy animals are not required to be certified. They simply need to accept being stroked or handled, take a food treat gently, and have the necessary temperament. During animal-assisted therapy, pets help break the ice, lower blood pressure, and slow the breathing of someone who may be feeling anxious. There have also been several studies done involving children with autism and the benefits of having a therapy animal. Children with autism can feel a deep connection with animals and will often engage in social interactions involving a therapy animal compared to standard therapy sessions without them.
Last year, Tina Piazza, a kindergarten teacher at Baldwin Elementary School, adopted Prada, a Lionhead rabbit, from the South Bay Rabbit Rescue in Morgan Hill. Tina’s father had passed away, and she was hoping to make a donation to the organization, when she came across this very calm, very loving rabbit. Prada had once been the therapy animal in a program developed for children with autism. According to Tina, “Prada was a very friendly and gentle rabbit, however no one was adopting her because of her ‘senior citizen’ status.” After learning more about Prada’s story as a therapy animal, she felt the need to adopt her. Tina explained, “I was hopeful that she would have a calming effect on a few challenging students.” Tina’s students fell in love with Prada at first sight. The energy of the love for this rabbit was palpable. When trying to decide what to call her, the class voted on several different names, but “Bunny” was the one that stuck. Tina’s own 2-year-old son also insisted on calling her “Bunny-Bunny”. Bunny now lives at Baldwin Elementary School and continues to bring the students and staff feelings of peace and joy each day. When she’s not cuddling, she loves playing with her jingle bell ball and eating treats such as dried carrots.