Therapy dogs growing more popular in WNY

Viral video sparks awareness, support

Sophia, Therapy Dog

BUFFALO, N.Y.(WIVB)- Therapy dogs can reduce stress, easy anxiety, and even lower blood pressure.

And for someone having a serious emotional breakdown, they can be an almost instant coping mechanism.

That’s what millions of people saw on YouTube, when an individual with Asperger’s Syndrome posted a video, having a depressive episode, and being calmed down by their therapy dog.

Click here to view the video; it’s already got almost 7 million views.

So how can a pet cause such a powerful reaction?

“They lower your cortisol levels. And cortisol is one of the compounds that secrete when you’re under a lot of stress. It makes you feel all jumpy. It’s the fight or flight response,” said Pam Rose of Therapy Animals of Western New York.

She’s mom to five and half-year-old Sophia, a Bernese Mountain Dog.

Sophia is one of a few hundred therapy dogs in Western New York.

Bernese Mountain Dogs, Golden Retrievers and Labs tend to be the most popular breeds for therapy use.

Rose told News 4 for someone with autism, the benefit of a therapy dog is pretty simple; a dog’s lack of judgement can be soothing.

“They don’t require you to talk in a certain way, they don’t dictate that you must interact or respond in a certain way, the way an autistic person might feel that pressure,” she said.

The video has sparked a lot of support on social media; dozens of photos of both service and therapy dogs have been shared online from around the country.

Rose told News 4 therapy use in Western New York is on the rise. Since 2011, UB has been bringing in therapy dogs to help students deal with stress during finals week.

Therapy dogs are also being used at wakes and funeral, and even at Horizon’s Rehabilitation Center to help patients there.

To get your dog certified as a therapy dog, or to get connect with a therapy dog, click here: http://therapyanimalswny.org/certification.php 

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