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The therapeutic benefits of animals

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When Camo and Chelsea arrive at Autumn Leaves of Glen Ellyn, the residents’ faces always light up with smiles.

“I know they feel a heart-soul connection of unconditional love, because I feel it, too,” says Chrissie Sadowski, owner of Chrissie & Chelsea’s Healing Love.

April is Dog Appreciation Month — a good time to “paws” to thank furry friends like Camo and Chelsea who bring joy to our residents.

“Happiness is a warm puppy,” wrote the late Charles Schulz, creator of the “Peanuts” comic. Turns out he was right! Studies show that just a few minutes a day petting or visiting with an animal lowers the stress hormone cortisol and increases the feel-good hormone serotonin. Other benefits can include lowered heart rate and blood pressure. Says Chrissie, “It also helps with their fine motor skills and can decrease their pain when focused on the dogs.”

Cuddling and petting a furry friend can lessen feelings of loneliness and isolation, decrease aggressive behavior, and provide an avenue for increased socialization.

Pets may offer special benefits to people living with dementia. A visit from a canine companion can boost mental stimulation, attention skills, and verbal interaction. Spending time with animals can help calm and soothe those who experience agitation or anxiety. Pet therapy for those with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia has also proven to be a powerful tool for those who experience “sundowning,” periods of agitation or confusion during the late afternoon or early evening.

Chrissie knows firsthand the positive effects of pet visits, so she’s made it her mission to coach others on using dogs for therapeutic purposes. Our door is always open to our furry friends!

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