By Rick Bass

Early in my military career, I had the opportunity to volunteer and train dogs for the disabled with the non-profit organization Handi-Dogs. This program provided specialized dog training to owners needing a service dog and a loving companion due to a disability and loneliness. What I found exciting about this unique program was the ability to not only train service dogs, but also the owner in learning these lifetime skills in independence, mobility assistance and creating loving companionships. These bonds of mutual dependence between owner and dog proved to be invaluable – increasing the quality of life for the owner and dog, especially for those who are single, disabled and possibly forgotten as the less visible members of our community. Our pets contribute to our overall well-being and balance the everyday stresses we all experience.

Many in my neighborhood take their daily walk with their best friend exploring all that may be new for the day – the smells with new acquaintances and experiences. We all get our daily exercise and build on our great Vail community through these pet connections. Our pets can be the mental and physical antidote to creating a healthy society. Their unconditional love comforts us when we are having a difficult day and feeling depressed or lonely. Our pets, especially dogs are there for us with and lick and a wag of the tail.

Animals Helping People

Animals can serve as a source of comfort and support and therapy dogs are especially good at this. “Dogs are very present. If someone is struggling with something, they know how to sit there and be loving,” says Dr. Ann Berger, a physician and researcher at the NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. “Their attention is focused on the person all the time.”
Berger works with people who have cancer and terminal illnesses. She teaches them about mindfulness to help decrease stress and manage pain. “The foundations of mindfulness include attention, intention, compassion, and awareness,” Berger says. “All of those things are things that animals bring to the table. People kind of have to learn it. Animals do this innately.”

Dogs may also aid in the classroom. One study found that dogs can help children with ADHD focus their attention. Researchers enrolled two groups of children diagnosed with ADHD into 12-week group therapy sessions. The first group of kids read to a therapy dog once a week for 30 minutes. The second group read to puppets that looked like dogs.

Kids who read to the real animals showed better social skills and more sharing, cooperation, and volunteering. They also had fewer behavioral problems. Another study found that children with autism spectrum disorder were calmer while playing with guinea pigs in the classroom. When the children spent 10 minutes in a supervised group playtime with guinea pigs, their anxiety levels dropped. The children also had better social interactions and were more engaged with their peers. The researchers suggest that the animals offered unconditional acceptance, making them a calm comfort to the children.

Animals can provide essential loving interactions, especially in times of crisis. Researchers are trying to better understand these effects and how animal connections can heal us.

Our pets are a pure source unconditional love – they provide us with a sense of joy and playfulness as we are enriched by the innocence and their need to belong and to serve us.

With a willingness to be present minded and help in reducing our loneliness and isolation in these challenging times. They provide us with much needed exercise and socialization and connection to God’s wisdom and natural healing with the animal world.

Remember to be kind to your pets. Ensure that are licensed, vaccinated and protected from the heat and cold. Leash laws are enforced in the Vail community. They deserve no less as important part of our growing Vail family and community.

Please adopt a dog or cat at The Humane Society of Arizona – web site: and Pima County Animal Care web site:
Handi-Dogs is dedicated to providing specialized training to people and their dogs to enhance independence and quality of life –

Please check the for community updates and information.

Rick Bass is a USAF Veteran. He has extensive background in crisis management, suicide prevention and re-source development for the disabled. A lifelong community volunteer and a new age music composer, he enjoys the expansive beauty of the Vail area.

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