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Riley, CGC, LOAL

 Therapy Dog

Retired May 2020


Riley, CGC, LOAL, worked with her handler Cassie D'Addeo, LMFT for the past six years in the mental health profession. Riley has been recognized through the American Kennel Club as a Canine Good Citizen and is a certified therapy dog through Love on a Leash.  She completed her clinical internship at Youth and Family Counseling in Libertyville, Illinois.  Riley retired from her clinical duties at Green Couch Counseling May of 2020. 




How pets can improve your family’s quality of life

By Cassie L. D’Addeo, LMFT

       Have you ever noticed how good you feel after playing fetch with your dog? Or how about that calm feeling you get after you cuddle on the couch with your cat and a good book? Pets are official family members, and they play an essential role in improving our mood and health. Having a pet can improve your family’s quality of life.

Research has shown that petting a dog decreases the level of stress hormones (cortisol) and increases the release of endorphins (the “happiness hormone”) in the body. Petting or playing with a pet also can help decrease a person’s blood pressure. One of the reasons for these therapeutic benefits is that most pets fulfill the basic human need for touch. In fact, the benefits of interacting with a dog are so overwhelming that comfort dog programs are popping up across the country in schools and on college campuses. These pet therapy programs are designed to help students stay focused on schoolwork and provide comfort during final exams when students’ stress levels are elevated.

        A family pet—a cat, a dog, or even a bunny—can have a profound impact on your family’s mental health and can directly affect a child’s level of functioning at home. Companionship with an animal helps mitigate depression, anxiety, and stress-related symptoms, such as lack of sleep or lack of appetite. For a young child experiencing emotional distress, holding onto or lying next to a family pet can be a source of comfort. Spending time with a family pet also can be consoling during times of loss or when a child is processing grief.

       Some children and adults with autism or other learning difficulties are better able to interact with pets than people.   For example, children with autism typically use nonverbal cues to communicate, which can be similar to how pets communicate nonverbally. So, if a child is able to connect with a family pet, having established this connection might help the child with other social interactions in his or her life. Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) who engage and play with pets throughout the day can be more equipped to stay focused on school assignments. In addition, researchers have noted that people with Alzheimer disease have fewer anxious outbursts when they have access to pets, and people with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) report that interacting with pets can help reduce their intrusive thoughts and provide comfort when they experience flashbacks. Both children and adults can benefit from spending time with pets. Pets can calm and relax us, as well as stimulate our minds and bodies.

         Pet owners need to be responsible for staying in tune with their pet’s emotional expression and body language. If your pet seems irritable or if a child has shown aggression toward the pet, separate the child and pet when necessary to maintain a safe environment for all. In addition, although being with a pet can be comforting, no family member should ever be forced to use an animal as a coping mechanism if he or she is reluctant or resists doing so.

        Having a pet can provide your family with many therapeutic and health benefits. Even if you don’t have a pet but would like your family to benefit from visiting with one, you may be able to find pet therapy organizations in your area. The American Kennel Club [] is one resource.

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