Back in September Rosemary Rossbach, Deputy Treasurer from the city of Brookfield called and asked if I would do a speech for a meeting in March of the Municiple Treasurer's Association of Wisconsin. The topic she was interested in was the health benefits of animals, and she'd contacted several other organizations who all declined to talk to her group about this topic. I think it's a fascinating topic, and I whole-heartedly agreed to do it.
After I hung up I had mixed feelings. Yes, it is a very fascinating topic -- but I really didn't know much about the science that has been done in this area. I had my work cut out for me because now I would have to actually research this topic for the speech. Luckily I had 6 months to find the information!
I found a wonderful source for information about studies involving animals and people. The Delta Society is an organization that promotes the human animal bond. They have abstracts of many studies done on how animals benefit the health of humans.
Interacting with animals can lower our blood pressure, reduce our cholesterol levels and relieve our anxiety and stress -- there's science to back all this up!
While I was doing my research I also found some very fascinating ways that animals are used to help people. The Bark magazine had an article on their website that was originally printed in the May/June 2007 issue called "Dogs in the Courtroom" about how service dogs are being used in the prosecutor's offices in the state of Washington. These dogs are instrumental in helping the victims of crime deal with the very stressful and scary process of having the relive their horrendous ordeals during the investigation of the crimes committed against them, and having to testify against those who hurt them.
Many times the victims are children who had been sexually abused, kidnapped or assaulted. With a dog present these children find it easier to discuss what has happened to them since the dog offers emotional support.
I also hit You Tube in my efforts to get information on this topic. I found many wonderful videos as examples of how animals help humans. One of the most compelling is a 5 part video called Effects of Animal Assisted Therapy on Autism which documents how a 5 year old boy named Zachary made tremendous improvement with his therapy after a dog named Henry was brought into the therapy sessions.
Most of the time when I speak to the public it's on topics that I know like the back of my hand and could do in my sleep -- so I have to admit I was nervous earlier this morning at the prospect of giving a speech on a topic I wasn't quite as familiar with. But the group I was speaking to was wonderful and were very interested in what I had to say. And because it was a topic that I truly enjoyed researching and learning about, my nerves just melted away.