Why do dolphins help people
When animals help people
Swim with dolphins
Lisa caresses the smooth, wet muzzle very carefully. Immediately afterwards she throws a ball to Squirt. And the young female dolphin pushes him back to Lisa with her snout. While playing with Squirt, Lisa floats in the arms of her therapist in the warm sea water of a dolphin therapy center in Florida. At the very beginning, when the nine-year-old girl arrived here, she had a lot of respect for the unfamiliar playmates. Now Lisa looks forward to her time with the dolphins every day.
The children are seriously ill
Lisa traveled the long way from Germany to Florida with her parents because she is very ill. Lisa's disease is called autism. Autistic children are usually very closed. They do not play with other children, they cannot go to school and it is very difficult for them to develop relationships with other people. Lisa's parents learned from newspapers and television that being together and swimming with dolphins has helped many sick children. And Lisa should definitely try that too.
What happens when you swim with dolphins? The treatment for disabled children is called "Dolphin Therapy". In this form of therapy, the sick children work every day for three weeks with "their" dolphins, human therapists and their parents. The dolphins were specially trained for their job as "therapists". At the beginning of the treatment, the children first get to know the dolphin and overcome their initial shyness. After that, they can also go swimming with the intelligent marine mammals. If the little patient and the dolphin have already had enough good experiences with each other, the exercises are a little more difficult. The two play with balls or rings and have to solve tasks.
What does dolphin therapy bring?
Dolphins are very sociable and sociable animals. Again and again they swim towards the patients, nudge them with their nose and encourage the children to play. Through these new, completely unknown experiences with the strange animals and the warm water, the locked children are taken out of their "snail shell". After dolphin therapy, happy parents report that their disabled children are much more alive than before. You move more, can speak better, laugh more and are no longer so anxious. These improvements are of course only permanent if the parents continue to do exercises with the children at home - even without the dolphin.
Dolphins aren't the only animal helpers
Horses can also help sick people. Patients who have a physical disability or who are partially paralyzed may be helped with so-called "riding therapy". While dolphin therapy is mainly used with children, horses help adults and children. Patients don't even need to be able to ride horses for treatment. You just sit on the horse, which is shown around by a therapist. The horse's gait generates vibrations that are transmitted from the horse's back to the rider. These movements of the horse train the muscles and the spine of the sick person. Just as healthy people do it through their own movements.
But riding not only strengthens the disabled person's body. The therapy gives sick children in particular a lot more self-confidence. Often they had to spend their previous life in a wheelchair, now they can experience the world from above and without any restrictions. A great experience.
Is that possible with every horse?
Horses are flight animals, which means that they run away when they are frightened or when they see danger. Physically handicapped people are often unable to control the movements of their bodies as well. It can happen that they move jerkily or fidget. Not every horse can handle it. In order to be used in riding therapy, a horse must therefore have a very calm character and must not be anxious. Care by a trained physiotherapist is also very important. This is the only way to ensure that the handicapped person is treated safely and successfully.
Guide dogs also help people
When sick children work with dolphins or horses, there is always hope that their health will improve and that the therapy will help against the disease. Guide dogs have a different job. They cannot help healing, but they can make the lives of blind people much easier and more worth living. The guide dog, as guide dogs are also called, guides its owner safely through the city. He must avoid obstacles or by standing still make it clear to his owner that an obstacle is in the way or that there is danger. This can be a step, a curb or any larger object, for example. If the dog stops, his owner can then use his white cane to feel the surrounding area and recognize the obstacle. A guide dog can go to various destinations and locations such as elevators, stairs, doors, seating or zebra crossings on command.
In order for a dog to be able to lead its master safely and reliably, it must be trained from an early age. As soon as the animals are one year old, a dog trainer teaches them up to 40 different audio signals. Audio signals are voice commands such as: "Sit!", "Run!", "Search bench!" or "Search traffic light!" The blind person will later be able to communicate with his guide dog through the audio signals. This type of training for guide dogs takes six to nine months, after which the dog and the visually impaired have to practice together for a few more weeks. Because for the two to become a well-rehearsed team, you need training. By the way, not every breed of dog can be trained to be a guide dog. The most suitable and capable of learning are German Shepherds, Labradors and Golden Retrievers.
Therapies for people with the help of animals are usually very expensive. Dolphin therapy, riding therapy or a guide dog cost many thousands of euros. The health insurance does not always cover the costs of the treatment. Why actually? After all, it helps so well. While guide dogs are now recognized for blind people, dolphin and riding therapy are still considered exotic. Doctors are not sure whether this will really help and that is why the parents of the sick children often have to bear the high costs themselves.
Stress for horse and dog
For relaxed, experienced horses, as used in riding therapy, the patient is just a rider, nothing more. And the animal has to be ridden anyway. It looks a little different with guide dogs. The service in the harness is very exhausting for the four-legged friends. This is why it is all the more important for guide dogs to have enough time every day to run around and play. The dogs are very valuable for blind people, for that reason alone they always make sure that their animals are doing well and that the four-legged friends have enough rest from work to lead.
Dolphins in captivity?
Dolphins, which are used as helpers in the therapy of sick children, must of course live in captivity. Otherwise they would not become so trusting and could not be specially trained. The keeping of the animals in fenced sea bays and artificial basins is strongly criticized by animal rights activists. They say that it is not possible to keep dolphins in captivity appropriately. In order to protect the dolphins, there is at least a provision in some countries that the animals are not allowed to work more than two hours a day. Other dolphin therapy centers, for example in Egypt, are now trying out whether they might also be able to work with dolphins living in the wild.
In any case, Lisa's parents would immediately go back to dolphin therapy.
Four months after her stay in Florida, Lisa achieved something that no one dared hope for before. She can now drive all by herself in her wheelchair and has finally understood how to move the wheels with her hands. Her parents are convinced that only playing with the dolphins could improve Lisa's concentration and receptivity.
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