Of course, this is no passing fad for the people who need therapy animals in their lives, or the humans who train, care for, and provide these invaluable creatures to them. Take, for instance, Jahaira Zamora-Duran, the pet mama to Blue, a therapy pig who has been grabbing headlines for her adorable Instagram account and the incredible work she does providing comfort to senior citizens.
The 3-year-old Blue has predominantly been visiting NuVista Living in Wellington, Florida, over the past year. Zamora-Dunn spent months of preparation with Blue before she became an official therapy animal, which included online training, health tests, and behavioral evaluations. But the time and effort has paid off for Blue, her pet parent, and the people whose lives she has enriched.
Blue's visits to the seniors typically last anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour to ensure both the animal and humans are comfortable and happy. During her time there, Blue "reaches out to the residents and takes treats from them, they pet her and speak to her, and she also gives them kisses," Zamora-Dunn explained. "Occasionally, Blue will hop out of her stroller and show off some of her many tricks, which include: sit, spin, kisses, bow, jump, play piano, and point out three colors."
"Many of the residents we visit suffer from depression, and interacting with Blue may be the only time of day they get to smile or laugh," she added. "It is very beautiful to see. They are so intrigued by Blue, and the excitement in their eyes is what keeps us coming back."
Therapy pets are becoming more of a staple in senior residence facilities and nursing homes, noted Hal Herzog, professor of psychology at Western Carolina University.
While the results have been mixed when it comes to researching the long-term effects these animals can have on the overall health of seniors, Herzog said it's clear that "many older adults enjoy talking to and petting therapy animals, and these interactions provide important social opportunities and improve people's moods."
Blue's work as a therapy animal has not only been empowering for others, but it's also changed the way Zamura-Dunn sees the world, too. "Blue has taught me so many things. I feel so blessed to be her mom, and to me, she is just the most perfect pet," Zamura-Dunn said. "Blue has taught me compassion in a way that I have never grasped before."
Though caring for a therapy animal is incredibly rewarding, Zamora-Dunn urges any pet parent who is thinking about getting a pig, particularly one to train for therapy, to do their research first and understand the commitment involved. "It is very important for people to understand that pigs take work, and you should not get one just because they are cute."
Image via @bluethepigofficial Instagram