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Written by the Founder of TCA, Inc.
THE VALUE OF PETS
IN OUR LIVES
By Susan Vallem
“Members of TCA already know how valuable our pets are to
us. They are part of our lives.
I learned how true this is when I went to New York City a couple of
months after the World Trade Center attack to provide disaster mental health
services. While I did the usual
assessment and assistance with people suffering from depression, anxiety and
post tramatic stress disorder, I found myself more and more wishing that I could
have brought along my therapy Siamese cat.
The discussion of pets appeared frequently in our discussions.
I worked with several people who had lost almost everything
and had only their pets left. Their
homes, jobs, colleagues, sometimes family members, and often hope were gone
They hung on tenaciously to their pets for support.
They also worried because their pets showed signes of trauma as well. Somehow, however, the value and needs of the animals were not
considered of primary importance. Disaster
relief does not generally cover cat or dog food, and it certainly doesn’t
cover Veterinary expenses. The
ASPCA did cover food and Vet expenses for service dogs, such as guide or seizure
dogs. And some pet food was donated
by pet food companies. However, the
mental health value of people’s personal pets was, in my estimation,
undervalued. I am able to
share a few examples.
One woman’s road to recovery came when she began to care
for several cats that were displaced in the aftermath of the fall of the towers.
She had been the kind of person who took care of her neighbors, but had
been disable in the collapse of the towers.
She was depressed about the 9/11 events and about being generally
confined to her house. As a true
cat-lover, she began to reach out with food and tenderness to three very
frightened and hungry cats. The
cats, in turn, bonded with her and gave renewed purpose to her life. Another
women had difficulty sleeping at night. Her
large Golden Retriever seemed to be her only comfort and security.
Her depression became deeper when she discovered an abnormal growth on
her dog’s chest. My fear was that
she would become suicidal, and her dog was the one strength she had to hang
onto. Without him she said that she
had nothing else-no job, no insurance, no other means of support. She and I
worked hard to find a Vet who would provide pro-bono care for her dog, who had
become as important to her as her own life.
We saw on television the work with the rescue and recovery
dogs, and pet therapy animals used to assist workers. However, animals are an important part of our own daily lives
and contribute often unmeasured benefits to our mental health.”
Thank you so much, Susan, for sharing this with us, as all
of us heal from the trauma! Surely therapy pets are unsung heroes, who deserve
greater accolades. Reaching out to others and their pets is what gives so many