With all due respect to Barbra Streisand, the lyrics to her iconic ballad really should go like this: “People,… People who need pets, Are the luckiest people in the world.” Interacting with animals is proven to decrease blood pressure and stress hormones; cut the risk of heart disease; reduce loneliness, anxiety, and depression; improve social interactions; and enhance feelings of calm, comfort and focus. Here’s a peek into the pet effect, and why we are the luckiest people in the world:
STUDIES SHOW PETS’ UNCONDITIONAL LOVE,
PATIENCE AND INTUITIVE EMPATHY
HAVE A POSITIVE IMPACT ON HUMAN
HEALTH, HAPPINESS AND WELL-BEING.
You may be used as a makeshift mountain during Downward Dog, or go nose to nose with one of the
curious creatures during Cobra pose, but that’s all part of the fun of Goat Yoga. The concept of practicing
yoga with goats started on the west coast in 2016, but thanks to social media, the phenomenon is sweeping
the naaaaahtion (sorry, we couldn’t help ourselves). Why? According to practitioners, it is impossible to feel
sad—or, to even resist laughing out loud—when you are distracted by playful, silly, goats.
Oasis Therapeutic Life Centers (Oasis tlc) in Middletown, an organic farm school for people with autism,
started hosting Goat Yoga classes for the public last year. The classes, held outdoors on the peaceful farm,
are led by Gina Lennon of Hot & Soul Yoga,Red Bank, and Jen Portman of Synergy Hot Yoga, Fair Haven.
All the while, some of the 32 Nigerian dwarf goats that reside at the farm school, wander around, inquisitively checking out the bending and stretching yogis on their mats. “The goats are naturally curious and friendly, kind of like dogs. They make people smile,” says Mai Cleary, founder of Oasis tlc. “It is a really fun experience and everyone is so happy afterwards. It shows how animals can help people.”
The goats are raised and cared for by student interns who participate in the Oasis tlc program, which is designed to provide vocational training and meaningful work in a healthy, natural, structured environment. The student interns also use the goats’ milk to create and sell soaps and lotions. Money raised from yoga classes ($30 donation per person, per session) helps cover operating expenses for the farm school, including the goats’ food. Goat yoga proved so popular last year—attracting as many as 130 participants per session from as far as New York City, and with nearly as many on the waiting list—that Oasis tlc added more classes and created an easy online registration portal this year. OASISTLC.ORG
“paws for reading”
At libraries all over, children can now practice reading aloud to certified, trained therapy dogs that happily lend an ear.
These calm, gentle and non-judgmental pups listen attentively and reward effort with tail-wagging praise. Studies show
canine-assisted reading has a “paw-sitive” effect on literacy skills, even among struggling readers. Children often feel less intimidated and more relaxed and comfortable reading to therapy dogs in the library rather than peers in the
classroom, so they gain confidence, show academic improvement, and in many cases, develop a love for reading. In the words of one librarian, “Magic happens.” Programs are offered at the Monmouth County Library Eastern Branch in Shrewsbury, as well as libraries in Middletown, Rumson, Eatontown, Atlantic Highlands, Hazlet, Colts Neck, West Long Branch and more. Contact your local public library to sign up; registration is usually required. Interested in getting certified with your pet for the “Read-to-a-Dog” therapy program? Contact
Seeing Eye guide dogs help people who are blind or visually impaired navigate the world. But, before these dogs can do their valuable work, they must go through a rigorous training program. That’s where Seeing Eye Puppy Raisers come in. These volunteers spend about a year raising a puppy, typically labs, golden retrievers and German shepherd breeds, in their homes. They house train the pups, teach obedience, manners and socialization skills, and expose them to a wide range of real-world environments, before the dogs head for advanced training at The Seeing Eye organization’s headquarters in Morristown. Members of the Monmouth County Seeing Eye Puppy Raisers Club meet twice a month at the Little Silver Women’s Club, and in between take dogs on group-outings to the mall, baseball games, airport, train and bus stations, NYC, schools, scout groups and libraries. No experience is necessary to be a puppy raiser, and people who do say the experience is gratifying and life-altering. “Being a puppy raiser and supporting the work of The Seeing Eye has become an integral part of our lives,” says Jamie Kretsch, a leader of the Monmouth County group. “You fall in love with helping
It’s a fact: the physical, emotional, and psychological stimuli involved in riding and interacting with horses improves humans’ health and wellbeing. Special People United to Ride (SPUR) offers these benefits of therapeutic horsemanship to individuals with disabilities in our area. Located at the Monmouth County Park System’s Sunnyside Equestrian Center in Lincroft, the non-profit program annually serves more than 200 children and adults with autism, blindness,
brain injury, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, and other developmental and health challenges.Through weekly riding sessions with certified instructors, supported by trained volunteers, each rider achieves measurable progress in self-esteem, social skills, balance, muscle tone, posture, and sensory processing. Not to mention forming a unique bond with the beautiful, gentle animals. For more info on the program, or to volunteer, visit SPURONLINE.ORG.