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Dog therapists Patti and Fany help not only the children, but also the teaching staff

At first glance, canistherapy looks like a simple activity. Dogs fetch, let themselves be scratched behind the ears or willingly adjust their necks to put on a collar. However, in reality, canine “doctors” are invaluable helpers. Canistherapy, i.e. contact with a dog, is an effective distraction and helps not only people with mental disorders, depression, but also those with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia or autism spectrum disorders. Dogs benefit not only by their presence, but for many patients they are also important helpers in maintaining fine motor skills.

When seven local children enter one of the classrooms of the Hradec special elementary and practical school with noise, they sit down dog therapists Patti and Fany next to their mistress Jana Pečenková are calm and hardly even blink. In the next half hour, their calmness and composure is slowly transferred to the students as well. Among them is eight-year-old Veronika, who, like her classmates, suffers from an autism spectrum disorder.

“I transferred here from another school, where I had a bit of behavior problems and I often can’t concentrate. But being reunited with my beloved dogs can calm me down. They are my darlings and I always look forward to seeing them,” says the girl and immediately marches her Bernese mountain dog Patti to the fence.

Many people consider a dog to be man’s best friend. But almost any animal can help as a therapist:

Fenka Snow helped at the Faculty of Arts, Charles University Prague

Where a doctor cannot, a dog must. Animal therapists help after a shooting and during illness

Teacher Lenka Lukešová also confirms her words about calming down. But it’s not just Veronica. “In general, it’s for the children I have here, and these are mainly children with autism or Asperger’s syndrome, very beneficial. And since on canistherapy we receive approximately once a month, for example it is a great motivation for Veronika,” says Lukešová.

He sees that as the biggest benefit dogs charges children with positive energy. “In addition to the touches that calm the children, they also see that even dogs have their own discipline. And thanks to how calm they are, they can tame their impetuosity a little and concentrate more. And that even a few days after the therapy,” the teacher describes.

Dogs pour strength into their veins

She adds that recently she also observes that the visit has a positive effect on her psyche. Especially at a time when machines are rumbling just a few meters from the school and not only the operation of the school, but the majority of the regional city is paralyzed by construction activity for the reconstruction of one of the largest intersections in the city. “We really appreciate the dogs, the repair is really difficult for us. And dogs again pour life-giving forces into our veins,” emphasizes the teacher.

Dog therapists on the premises of the Special School in Hradec Králové.Dog therapists on the premises of the Special School in Hradec Králové.Source: Diary/Petr Vaňous

Canine therapist and co-founder of the Aura Canis association Jana Pečenková has been bringing dog “doctors” to the school in Hradec Králové for years. They see that dogs are good helpers for children, but it comes at a cost. “Dogs transmit not only their love, but also their energy to children. And after each therapy they are very exhausted,” says the canine therapist. Her colleagues from similar organizations visit not only special schools, but also hospitals, homes for the elderly or go to recovery camps with their canine helpers.

According to her, with canistherapy, one not only feels good with dogs and they improve one’s psychological well-being, but one can also practice fine and gross motor skills with them. “Under the term fine motor skills, you can imagine, for example, the activities of putting on a collar and leash or combing. Walking with the dog to practice orientation in space is rough,” Pečenková outlines the types of therapy.

Race doesn’t matter

And what kind breeds are they best suited for canistherapy? Canistherapy promoter Jiřina Lacinová believes that race does not matter. “It’s like humans. It depends on how the given dog can handle the enormous nervous load. And canistherapy is really very demanding for dogs. Each dog in the litter has a different personality and intelligence,” says Lacinová.

Dolphin therapy helps children with autism:

Ángel Chuecos during dolphin therapy in Turkey.

Dolphins help children with autism or cerebral palsy. There are also adult therapists

Although canistherapy is now very popular, no one knows exactly how much dogs and how many facilities that dog therapists go to actually have in our country. “Unfortunately, there is no umbrella organization in the Czech Republic. That’s why it’s not at all clear how many therapeutic animals we have here,” says Ludmila Cimlová, a teacher and coordinator from the Training Center of the Hafík canine therapy association.

Canine assistance at the faculty

Selfless help after last year’s shooting the people from the Faculty of Arts of Prague’s Charles University were provided by the female Snow, with whom the volunteers used to go there. The newspaper has already briefly reported on it. The faculty’s communication coordinator Ondřej Dufek pointed out that after the attack, the management there quickly put together a system of psychological and social assistance to all those affected. “Canistherapy was considered as part of it, but the female Snow and her guide came to us on their own initiative,” he said.

The dog, or rather the female Snow, helped even after the tragic events at the Faculty of Arts in Prague.The dog, or rather the female Snow, helped even after the tragic events at the Faculty of Arts in Prague.Source: Courtesy of the Faculty of Arts, Charles University in Prague

According to him, this spontaneously created cooperation, which students, teachers and other employees are happy about. He mentioned that the local crisis interventionists, who moved around the faculty premises after the beginning of the semester and were ready to help anyone who needed it, independently confirmed that the canistherapeutic benefit was evident. “We sincerely thank Snow and her human friends (the school does not disclose their names to the media – editor’s note) for their selflessness and dedication,” Dufek said.

At the moment, volunteers with Snow do not come to the building regularly. “I think it’s reasonable for her to take a break from the faculty after a fairly intense period. After all, he certainly has many other commitments. However, we have not broken contact and it is quite possible that we will connect again in the future,” added Dufek. At the faculty, however, they put together a schedule of visits for other therapy and assistance dogs.

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