“It’s so much fun to see everybody running around and—ooh what’s that sound,” says Teddy G. “Yeah, all the puppies and all the people and all the smells!! All the smells!” adds Eddy T.
As the beloved fur babies of Beit T’Shuvah community stalwarts, Pat Gage and Barbara Tell, Teddy and Eddy are regular and contagiously enthusiastic members of the BTS “Puppy Therapy” program, which takes place every other Thursday on Shirley’s Patio at Beit T’Shuvah. Started as a way to provide additional therapeutic healing and fun for the residents, Puppy Therapy has become a must-attend event for all those residents and staff needing some K-9 love as part of their recovery program or to just add some snuggles to their hectic days.
“But we need more right Eddy?” exclaims Teddy. “Yes, more snacks!” replies Eddy. “No, no, no… ooh a butterfly,” says Teddy. The gist of what the boys are saying is that, while the event does overflow with tons of energy, laughter, and connection, it could be even bigger and brighter. According to NIH, a monthly newsletter from the National Institutes of Health (part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services), “Interacting with animals has been shown to decrease levels of cortisol (a stress-related hormone) and lower blood pressure. Other studies have found that animals can reduce loneliness, increase feelings of social support, and boost your mood.”
The recovery process is a very unique and singular experience for the addict. It can sometimes seem very isolating for an individual trying to detox physically and emotionally. Likewise, many residents, along with letting go of their addictions, have to sometimes let go of their animal children when they enter the doorway at 8831 Venice Blvd. The opportunity to have regular and meaningful connections with a variety of pups, as well as their human parents, is quite literally a G-d send for many of the residents at BTS. As Jen G. shares, “I don’t think it’s a coincidence that ‘dog’ spelled backward is ‘G-d’. They are truly little gifts from G-d.” And Thea G. also adds, “Animals are so pure. They love you unconditionally and are amazing for calming anxiety.”
However, the experience is just as meaningful for the pups and their parents as it is for the community members inside the walls of Beit T’Shuvah. As Teddy attests, “I love playing with the residents at BTS. I fit right in with the gang! They scratch my itches and let me lick their faces!” And Eddy interjects, “My new human BTS friends make me SO happy! And the TREATS!! All the yummy treats!!” But more than just scratches, licks, and treats, the connection between people and dogs goes back millennia to when humans and wolves first bonded over a mutual need for survival. It’s an ancient and sacred bond to which millions of human beings and dogs can attest.
And it’s just flat-out fun. To see the eyes of residents and staff light up when the pups come running toward them is truly a beautiful sight to behold, as is the chance for community members outside the confines of BTS to come and fellowship with the residents and bond over a mutual love for K-9/human relationships. As Pat explains, “I love the puppy program because I get to meet the residents and bond with them. Our fabulous residents sincerely enjoy the outside community taking time to talk to them.” And Barbara adds, “Watching our dogs play together and interact with the residents brings smiles and a certain amount of joy. I’ve had many conversations about pets temporarily left behind and always sense the love in those special moments.”
Beit T’Shuvah offers so much to its residents in the way of developing recovery tools and practices and this is just another shining example of how BTS continues to find new and innovative ways to uplift the resident community. If you’re a community member and you have pups you’d like to bring to Puppy Therapy, please contact Pat at firstname.lastname@example.org and become part of a truly magical experience. And if you’re a resident and you love dogs don’t miss out on this unique opportunity to connect with some lovely pups and get to know community members you may have never had the chance to meet.
In the meantime, the last words go to Teddy and Eddy. “We can’t wait to meet you!” says Teddy. “And all the new puppies! We love new friends!” exclaims Eddy. “And don’t forget the snuggles,” Teddy declares. “And the treats! We LOVE the treats!” Eddy exuberantly reminds. So if you’re game, join us this coming Thursday, May 26th, from 2:30pm-3:30pm on Shirley’s Patio, and be sure to bring lots of hugs, snuggles, treats, and, above all else, LOVE.