Animals Helping People
Like many of us, I have pets. In the past, when my sons were younger, we had rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, gerbils, rats, ferrets, birds, snakes, a hermit crab, and a walking-stick bug. And fish. Currently, I have two dogs (both rescues) and three lizards. They added fun and excitement (a snake escape) to our lives, and I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that our pets are like family.
For some, animals are not merely friends or “children.” To many people with physical disabilities or emotional problems, a service animal provides independence. Most of the titles below are about dogs—they are the most common—but monkeys, birds, and horses also can be trained to be service animals, as well as to provide therapy to the sick, disabled, and elderly.
Lola Goes to Work : A Nine-to-Five Therapy Dog tells the story of Lola, a Yorkshire terrier, as she trains to become a therapy dog. After her graduation from training, she travels with her owner to nursing homes and hospitals to comfort people. She also visits classrooms to explain how she learned her skills and what she does when she visits people.
In Tuesday Tucks Me In, Tuesday the service dog tells about his day with former Captain Luis Carlos Montalvan, a disabled veteran with PTSD and traumatic brain injury. Tuesday goes everywhere with Luis (a photo shows him peeking out from under a bathroom stall door), visits other disabled veterans, and helps prevent Luis’s panic attacks. This photo book for children is a great introduction to service animals beyond the seeing-eye dogs that are most commonly known.
Therapy Animals covers other animals that have jobs in many places, including schools, hospitals, and nursing homes. Sometimes they are used for motivation—to get students to read or a physical therapy patient to try harder. When visiting the sick, they help to improve a patient’s mood or just provide comfort.
Therapy Cats, Dogs, and Rabbits focuses on these “pet-able” animals, explaining the characteristics they have that sometimes makes them better able to help than other humans are.
Gabe & Izzy is a true story about Gabrielle “Gabe” Ford. Gabe developed a degenerative muscular disease when she was in middle school, and she was bullied as a result. Then she got her dog, Izzy, and they immediately forged a close bond; but when Izzy developed a very similar disease, they became even closer. After appearing on Animal Planet, they started to get invitations to schools. Gabe now has a career as an anti-bullying advocate and public speaker.
Dogs have amazing noses, and they put their noses to work in many different ways. Super Sniffers : Dog Detectives on the Job, in addition to portraying dogs that work in the military, law enforcement, and more, offers a chapter on medical alert dogs. These dogs have been trained to detect the odors of food allergens, blood sugar levels, onset of seizures, and even cancer. The book also explains why dogs’ noses are so powerful and how they are trained in their detection skills.
Haatchi and Little B tells the story of a boy and a dog that helped each other overcome their physical disabilities. Owen (nicknamed “Little B”) was born with a genetic muscular disorder that confined him to a wheelchair. He was very uncomfortable with the stares he received when out in public, and would hunch down and hide his face to avoid making eye contact. Haatchi, the dog, had been hit on the head and left for dead on some busy rail tracks (maybe even tied to them). He knew enough to scrunch down and let the trains pass over him, but one of his back legs and his tail were almost severed. Fortunately he was discovered and patched up, and he survived. These two unfortunates were brought together, and the result has been amazing.
Written by a doctor with a proclaimed aversion to cats, Making Rounds with Oscar tells the story of Oscar, an aloof cat that lives at a nursing home. He never spends much time with the residents, sometimes accepting a stray pat or two—until they are in their last hours. He can sense when people are about to die and seeks them out, sitting outside their doors until he is let in, and then cuddling with them until they have passed—providing comfort both to the dying residents and their families.
Until Tuesday is the original story that provides the basis for Tuesday Tucks Me In (in the elementary section above). After returning from Iraq, this veteran suffered from physical disabilities, including a severe case of PTSD. He was isolated, lonely, and subject to panic attacks until he met Tuesday, a golden retriever trained as an assistance dog. This is a very moving story about a problem all too familiar today.
Gabe & Izzy : Standing Up for American’s Bullied by Gabrielle Ford with Sarah Thomson. 9780803740624. 2014. Gr 4-8.
Haatchi and Little B : The True Story of One Boy and His Dog by Wendy Holden. 9781250063182. July 2014. Gr 10-Adult.
Lola Goes to Work : A Nine-to-Five Therapy Dog by Marcia Goldman. 9781939547002. 2013. Gr K-2.
Making Rounds with Oscar: The Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat by David Dosa. 9781401323233. 2010. Gr 10-Adult.
Super Sniffers : Dog Detectives on the Job by Dorothy Hinshaw Patent. 9780802736192. September 2014. Gr 4-7.
Tuesday Tucks Me In : The Loyal Bond Between a Soldier and His Service Dog by Luis Carlos Montalvan. 9781596438910. 2014. Gr K-3.
Therapy Animals (Animals with Jobs) by Connie Colwell Miller. 9781607533818. 2014. Gr 2-4.
Therapy Cats, Dogs, and Rabbits (We Work! : Animals with Jobs) by Jenny Fretland VanVoorst. 9781617728952. 2014. Gr K-2.
Until Tuesday : A Wounded Warrior and the Golden Retriever Who Saved Him by Luis Carlos Montalvan. 9781401324292. 2011. Gr 11-Adult.
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