Animal Assisted Intervention (AAI) is a form of therapy using animals as an integral part of treatment.
The health intervention is said to improve physical, emotional, social and cognitive functions. It has been found to help patients build up their self-esteem, anxiety and social interaction skills. And had great results working with Neurodivergent individuals.
Jackie Dean, 54, trained her 3 year old Red Fox Labrador, Nelly, in AAI with the PAWS Therapy Dog Training Programme. In the 2 months Nelly has been qualified, she has helped a wide range of patients. Jackie now has her own business ‘Hey Doggie!’ which specialises in training other dogs in Animal Assisted Therapy.
Our reporters Jessie Price, Charlotte Coles and Ellie Hawkins went to see Jackie and Nelly to understand more about AAI & the difference it can make. Jackie explained “the impact is massive” and “it can help so many people, whether it’s a person that has dementia, just spending time with the dog, stroking her, it might bring back some memories.”
The pair also visit schools where they help classes in exam season, “working with students that are struggling for whatever reason, it’s a massive importance.” Jackie told us one of hers and Nelly’s greatest successes, “We walked with a young lad out in the forest, he didn’t enjoy walking, his mother was having to carry him or put him in a pushchair. He has autism and spending time with Nelly, he actually walked for 45 minutes. He is non-verbal as well, and at the end of it, he said ‘goodbye’ to Nelly.”
By Ellie Hawkins