Antonio adds “I have one client who would simply pet bunnies during our sessions and relax more as a result.” TAY Space has successfully advocated to get numerous emotional support animals approved for transitional age youth in supported housing.
Side by Side’s Hunt School has also embraced the healing power of animals. Over 25 years ago, volunteer Candy Wilson began bringing her dog to the Hunt School campus through a Marin Humane Share program. “My dog was a little bit rambunctious which was perfect because so were the kids! Showing them how to have the dog settle down and how to be gentle was huge,” she says.
Wilson believes that learning about how to treat dogs helped students understand that you don’t punish behavior that you don’t want. “Instead, you gently work around to the right behavior. This profound analogy has stuck with me all these years,” she says. “I am so grateful for the experience. I found that kids can say things to the animals that they may not say to people. I saw the students opening up and what a difference it was making. It was an honor to be part of that.”
Hunt School Director Jolene Yee says that although the Share program has gone temporarily on hiatus due to COVID, there is currently a lap dog on campus that students can bring with them into their sessions. “They open up to therapeutic intervention when the dog is in the room,” she says. Yee says that she is hopeful they will be able to reinstate the Marin Humane Share program in the new year.
Antonio also notes that because pets live in the moment, they don’t worry about what happened yesterday or what might happen tomorrow. “Pets can help troubled youth enjoy and appreciate the present moment and help them remember how to be playful and carefree.” Appreciating the present and finding the joy in each moment is a lesson we can all take to heart.