If you’re a pet-guardian, pet-caregiver, or animal-lover in general, you know that pets can be good for your health and well-being.
So it stands to reason that for decades animal-assisted therapy has been a widely used technique in hospitals across the world. “Animals provide a doorway that would otherwise not exist,” says Lisa Peacock, founder of the Peacock Foundation.
Peacock’s Los Angeles based foundation works with youth, mainly ages 7-17, who would otherwise not have access to counseling services and helps them build self-esteem, sensitivity, and social skills through alternative interventions like hands-on animal interaction. Peacock says that animals appear to help people deal with many things including crises, catharsis, and feelings of anxiety.
“We place trained therapists and MFT interns with a group of children (no more than 10) and we allow the therapist to utilize the natural tendency of children to gravitate toward animals. This enables the therapist to form a bond with the children and safely build a healthy relationship. After building this bond, the therapist can then work through other issues of abuse, neglect, self-esteem, and more,” explains Peacock.
Peacock, who suffered the loss of both of her parents by the age of 19, says her inspiration for the foundation can best be described as Divine Intervention. “I always acclimated to animals and was drawn to them on my most emotional and painful days. Animals were always safer than people. They always loved you and never hurt your feelings in the ways that cruel children can.”
Peacock says it’s been proven that stroking an animal lowers blood pressure and heart rate, “We have all seen fish tanks in Doctors offices because having something living to watch distracts the mind from what is currently happening. This same distraction can be used when discussing the day-to-day happenings in our lives that cause pain and stress.”
According to Peacock, her organization is the first in the field to offer these services to groups. “We also utilize a wide array of animals including, snakes, lizards, tortoises, chinchillas, rabbits, and dogs. The children we work with are usually below the poverty line, and possibly live with people other than their families. We work with many foster care facilities, and after school programs for at-risk and neglected youth,” says Peacock.
“The animal-assisted method is mutually beneficial for both the kids and the animals,” says Peacock. “All of our animals were abandoned, homeless, or protected and needed a home. These animals enjoy getting out of their day-to-day environments and experiencing new things. It keeps all of their senses active.”
“Mammals naturally seek out the contact with others and are very happy to be with the children. I can only provide quality time for a few of them and with the children we are able to give these animals so much more,” she says.
Referring to her most rewarding moment so far, Peacock says, “We had two boys build healthy attachments to their foster parents and were successfully adopted. That is still a tearjerker for me. I have daily stories of children showing kindness to each other and the animals, and children who realize they have dreams of becoming a vet, or working with animals.” Peacock says she loves watching hope spark in the faces of these children who have so little to inspire them.
With their up-coming “Spread the News Wine Tasting” event happening Sept. 25, the Peacock Foundation aims to raise awareness and funds. “This is our major event of the year that provides most of the funding for our animal care and program expenses,” says Peacock. For more information and tickets click HERE.
If you’d like to get involved with similar organizations either on your own or with your pet, check out this guide to animal-assisted programs throughout the United States. Or you can use this helpful online directory offered by the Delta Society.
*Photos Courtesy of: Amy Bojanowski
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