November 16th, 2016
Note: A guest post by Purdue University Press staff member Dianna Gilroy is written as part of University Press Week and the blog tour coordinated by the Association of American University Presses (AAUP). The AAUP requested blog posts today on staff members making good and doing interesting things in their communities. Below, Dianna shares her passion for her work, editing books, and her work with dogs in our community.
I have been happy in my job as a member of the editorial team at Purdue University Press in working mainly on our scholarly books in the humanities, such as the Central European Studies series and Comparative Cultural Studies series, which I love; but also close to my heart is our New Directions in the Human-Animal Bond series, which connects closely to my work outside the press for animal adoption and welfare and has deepened my understanding of the importance of our connections with animals. The series examines all aspects of human-animal interaction and welfare, including animal-assisted therapy, public policy in areas from hoarding to dog parks, and humane ethics. I have marveled at the series’ accounts of the extraordinary relationships between people and animals—the physical and psychological healing abilities of dogs, the treatment of troubled young people through their connections with animals, and the value of animal parks and activities in our neighborhoods.
Afternoons with Puppy relates psychologist Aubrey Fine’s groundbreaking work in using animals to connect to children with, for example, ADHD, learning disabilities, or developmental disorders. In the case study of “Charles,” Fine sensed the boy’s feeling of humiliation and isolation, “revealed in a lowering of his head, a reluctance to make eye contact, and a slumping of his shoulders.” He brought in his golden retriever, Puppy, about whom he writes, “I am convinced that she possessed or more readily utilized some innate sense that allows her to respond to clients faster and on a different level than I can. In fact, I’ve learned that nonhuman contact allows for a huge increase in a patient’s comfort level while in the office.”
Fine notes that one strategy he uses in therapy is empathy, something that those of us who live with dogs have recognized in our beautiful friends again and again.
The discussion of animals’ usefulness in assisting those with psychological challenges has been growing recently, but for some time there has been popular and scientific documentation showing that the partnership with animals, especially dogs, facilitates the healing of a variety of physiological problems. Walk a Hound, Lose a Pound is a recent book that grew out of a program in Columbia, Missouri, where community residents went to the local animal shelter weekly for four weeks to walk a shelter dog for one hour. The project has helped over 1000 dogs to get their exercise, improve their leash-walking skills, and improve their socialization and chances at adoption, all the while making the volunteers more physically active themselves. Authors Phil Zeltzman and Rebecca A. Johnson outline a multitude of health and social benefits associated with dog ownership. For example, people who own dogs are healthier than people who don’t and make fewer visits to their doctor; dogs can lower our blood pressure, triglyceride, and cholesterol levels; dog owners are more likely to survive after having a heart attack; dog owners, especially older ones, are more likely to get out with a pet, stay involved with others, and participate in recreational activities; and the presence of dogs makes neighborhoods safer by increasing social interactions and bringing a regular, reassuring presence to the area: it has been shown that people who have a dog with them are viewed by others as more likeable than those without a dog.
Teaming with Your Therapy Dog looks closely at the intimate relationship between therapy-dog handlers and their dogs, and recognizes the need for handlers to be respectful teammates with their dogs. Author Ann Howie notes that being a teammate requires attention to our own behavior, not just our dog’s. She offers those who live with therapy dogs principles of good teamwork and illustrates how they fit with the Therapy Dog’s Bill of Rights. Reviewer Kathy Klotz writes of the importance of these principles: “If we truly care about our dog partners who give themselves so valiantly to this kind of work, we realize that the role of a handler in a therapy team is pivotal. We must protect, advocate, and speak for our dogs, so that they can trust our support in the emotionally challenging situations in which we place them.”
I understand first-hand both the benefits and responsibilities that come with the human-animal relationship. Since I arrived in West Lafayette for graduate school, I have tried to help people understand the joy of dogs and the need to come to the aid of homeless animals. I have served on the board of a newly created dog park in Lafayette, which gives dog lovers in the community a place to meet other like-minded people and give both people and pets a place for fresh air and exercise. The board has also offered free talks at the local library about dog training, dog health issues, and other topics. Our park has been a clear benefit to the neighborhood in which it is located, in the ways that Zeltzman and Johnson describe. Crime has gone down, and the park has hosted many community events since it opened.
I have participated in or led a team in the local “Doggie Dash,” an annual fund-raising event for a no-kill animal shelter. The event raised awareness of the problem of homeless animals and raised several thousand dollars each year for the shelter.
And through the online global community, I have worked on a charity calendar through an online group of dog lovers called the #BTPosse (Border Terrier Posse on Twitter), a group located mainly in the UK but also in the EU, US, Russia, Australia, and New Zealand. Since I started working on the calendar in 2014, we have raised about $25,000 for a UK shelter and animal welfare group. The #BTPosse is a fascinating and endearing community of dogs (and their “staff”) who have their own accounts on twitter and speak to one another as dogs. Terms such as “noms,” “zoomies,” “sunpuddling,” “skwizzels,” “curious ears,” and “BOL” (bark out loud) appear in their conversations, as their “typists” channel the personalities of these charming terriers. The #BTPosse is a unique testament to the joy, hilarity, and wonder of the human-animal bond.
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