3/6/02 - Pet Therapy

Little furry friends like rabbits and guinea pigs make great pets for most of us. If you have pets like these they usually stay in a cage, but it's what these animals can do outside the cage that makes them so special. It's called pet therapy and the goal is simple, making people feel better.

A pig and a goat? Usually they're just in petting zoos or on farms, but now they're making trips to health care facilities. Wednesday, a "zoo on wheels" came to Sikeston Healthcare, to give residents a different kind of therapy, one that makes the day go by faster. Sikeston Healthcare Administrator Kim Morgan says, "Studies show that when you can make an institution more home like, plants, pets, or those type of things, that's the best environment for residents, so that's what we're trying to do."

Hazel Bailey has lived in the facility for four years. The animals make her remember her cat, Mickie, she had to give away when she moved out of her home. Bailey says, "I like all animals. I think they're pretty, don't you? It's nice to have animals around here." Morgan says, "A lot of the residents have lived here for 20 to 30 years, this is their home, they don't have much family. We have developmentally disabled, mentally ill, mentally retarded here and the staff here is their family."

Even though the pets were only at Sikeston Healthcare for about thirty minutes, the impression, and therapy they gave to the residents will last much longer. All it takes is the smiles on the residents' faces to figure that out. "Pure joy, ecstatic, they love the contact," Morgan says. "It's just something they don't get to do often, it's something therapeutic for them."

Pet therapy is a growing trend across the Heartland. Other healthcare facilities and some Heartland hospitals have pet therapy days.