“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.”- Anatole France
In our daily, depressing, monotonous routines it becomes impossible for one to relax a little and have peace of mind. So how does one actually enjoy themselves and think and do about something that is not related to work, which would be beneficial to our mental well-being. There are many ways for that to be achieved – one of them is known as Animal-Assisted Activities.
Animal-Assisted Activities, also known as AAA, is a wonderful way to relieve stress from one’s daily life. As the name suggests, it involves an interactive session between animals and humans. This activity, unlike Animal Therapy which is more systematic and structured, is more informal in nature. Seeing this, we the students of IB-1 namely Melissa, Nupur, Prabha and Saurabh decided to plan our AAA session in school.
For our activity to truly meet its purpose, we had to find the most stressed out bunch of students. It was 10th grade. They were about to appear for their board examinations hence were perfect for this activity as they would benefit the most out of it. Dogs were selected as the preferred animal breed owing to its affable conduct and known affiliation for the human species. Luckily, a few of our classmates were dog owners and with just a little bit of observation, they were cleared for the activity.
We then delivered a presentation to the 10th graders on what is AAA all about and how it could benefit them. Ethical guidelines with respect to handling animals were also discussed. A pilot study was also conducted with a small group of teachers to assess its feasibility. The session proved to be a transforming experience for the teachers as they reported a reduction in their stress levels. 4th October which is commemorated as World Animal Day was considered as an apt occasion to conduct this activity. We split the students up into 3 groups and sent them to the 3 respective dogs that had been selected for the activity. With the dogs, the participants petted, brushed and played around with the dogs. One of the biggest successes was that many students who actually were afraid of the dogs came forward and actually petted the animals. We kept rotating the participants so that they get to experience all the three dogs.
Overall, AAA was an enlightening experience. The participants felt refreshed and relaxed after the interaction. We, the organisers gained confidence to manage and deliver talks, and learn skills of organization. The power of a healing touch reflected through these innocent animals stood testimony to how empathy and kindness can cross barriers and soothe our worries and anxieties especially in this era of hectic schedules, broken relations and conflicted minds.
Our future plan of action is to benefit the community by introducing such session in old-age homes and orphanages.