News & Stories

Pet Therapy Lifts Spirits of Fishers Man

Pet Therapy for People with Disabilities in Indianapolis

Dave has always been active. He played baseball as a kid and all through high school in Greentown. He later played on adult basketball and softball leagues. He and his wife, Julie, often played tennis together. They traveled, went to Indians baseball games, went hiking. Normal stuff, Julie says.

Then secondary progressive multiple sclerosis took all that away. Now 55, Dave has been confined to his bed inside their Fishers home for the last two years. While his mind is sharp, physically he can’t live the life most people take for granted.

Some days are harder than others mentally and physically, which is why Dave and Julie are so grateful for CICOA’s pet therapy program. Once a month a trained therapy dog visits with Dave. As soon as Bailey (or one of the other trained terriers) climbs onto his bed, Dave’s mood shifts.

“It’s calming for Dave, and a wonderful experience,” Julie says. “If he’s down or in pain or having a bad day, when he visits with the dog, he’s in better spirits, happier and a lot more relaxed.”

When Julie learned CICOA was offering a pet therapy program in late 2017, she immediately called Dave’s care manager and asked to sign up her husband. CICOA partners with the nonprofit TheraPets of Indiana to offer pet therapy to clients who, like Dave and Julie, are animal lovers.

TheraPets has more than two dozen therapy dogs, all either Cairn Terriers or West Highland White Terriers. Some dogs are more suited to provide comfort to hospice patients, others help those who may be lonely or depressed, and some help patients with physical therapy through play. Over the last 18 years–since Darlene Gosnell began TheraPets–she’s learned that even a simple gesture like petting a dog can lift people’s spirits.

Without fail, clients comment on surveys that the dogs make them feel emotionally better, said Tara DeBoo, CICOA’s volunteer coordinator. Dave is one of 17 CICOA clients who participate in pet therapy.

“Sometimes they just lay together,” Julie says of the monthly pet therapy. “Dogs are nonjudgmental. They don’t care if you’re sick or what you look like. They are there to be there for you.”