As the country emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, many are trying to readjust to what used to be their normal lives, as well as the stresses of work, school or health problems. Oftentimes, this can be overwhelming. Pet therapy is a popular and underrated resource for stress management. Pet Partners strongly believe in pets’ ability to restore people’s energy levels, deal with health issues and generally improve moods.
Pet Partners is a national non-profit organization founded in 1991 that serves as a resource for the human-animal bond and emphasizes the role of animals in people’s health and well-being. The local Cincinnati chapter was officially established in 2004. The organization regularly goes to schools, retirement communities, and health care facilities to spread its message. Members use their pets to make people feel less stressed and more comfortable, according to the organization.
Heather Hauser, visiting coordinator at the Cincinnati chapter, has been with the organization since 2018. Hauser organizes and arranges visits to various locations so that the resident can experience the human-animal relationship promoted by pet partners. These visits increase people’s understanding of the importance of animal therapy in our lives.
“It has been shown that interactions with therapy animals raise your oxytocin levels and make people happy,” Hauser said. “So, when people are nervous, it’s a good idea to give them something else to think about.”
The organization makes efforts to visit as many different sites as possible, so that most people can experience the positive effects of interacting with animals. Pet Partners have even visited the University of Cincinnati (UC) to help out during stressful times for students, like exam week.
Each year, Pet Partners hosts the world’s largest pet fundraiser, which they hope will have at least 1,500 walkers and will raise $100,000 to support their program. The event is attended by people from all over the United States.
The walk will take place at this year’s Cincinnati branch on September 24, where Pet Partners will be asking pet owners across the city to walk their pets individually in honor of the cause. Although many bring their dogs to the occasion, the walks once included all kinds of different people and pets, including rabbits, guinea pigs, and llamas.
The march will also host an occupational therapy conference at Xavier University, where they will talk about the benefits of pet therapy. Pet Partners’ Thank You Operation will honor veterans and first responders.
Hauser said the money raised from the rally will be used for recruitment. Specifically, the organization hopes to run more workshops to train its volunteers. The organization also hopes to form a scholarship program for Cincinnati nationals to enroll with pet partners to get their pets to go through all the training necessary to become therapy animals. “This money is needed to raise awareness and get more people involved in such a vital service,” Hauser said.
One of the goals of Pet Partners in Greater Cincinnati is to recruit more members to alleviate the staff shortage. “We have a lot of visitation requests and sometimes we don’t have enough people to fill them all,” Hauser said. “Pet therapy is really exploding and becoming a bigger deal.”
Another goal of the organization is to expand and enhance its work with first responders, such as firefighters and police officers. They also hope to get more involved in school reading programs for struggling readers. “Children feel less nervous reading to a dog than someone else, so this program will help them improve their reading skills,” said Jane Jarrett, president of the Cincinnati chapter.
The more people volunteer at Pet Partners, the closer we are to the goal of making “a positive difference in the lives we touch at all the facilities we visit, while educating the community about the important value of the human-animal bond.”
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