When it comes to being a therapy animal, Monkey doesn’t monkey around! Monkey and her handler Melodie have been registered with Therapy Animals of Utah since 2016, and volunteer at the Park City Library for their Paws to Read Program, at Kamas Elementary School for reading sessions in their after-care program, and at Sante Assisted Living in Heber City. The team conducts weekly visits, usually rotating through the different facilities. They also volunteer at several special events. Monkey especially loves stress relief events during Finals week at the University of Utah. Monkey’s versatility enables her to adapt to the present situation whether it’s sitting quietly and listening while a youngster reads to her, or showing her playful side and entertaining onlookers with her tricks. Some of her most popular tricks are “Rodeo”, which is a spin on request, a canine version of a bucking bronco. When prompted to do “Inside Voice”, which is an indoor appropriate speak command, she gives a quiet little woof, to the delight of whoever she is visiting.
Monkey’s friendly nature makes a positive impact wherever she goes. One particular resident at Sante Assisted Living admittedly had a guarded view of pit bulls before meeting her. Monkey, who is an American Pit Bull Terrier, charmed him with her happy personality and changed his opinion! Every time he saw her he would say, “There’s my favorite pit bull!” He liked to watch her do tricks and give her treats. The benefits of spending time with Monkey and other therapy animals extend beyond entertainment. During a tax week stress relief event at the Fidelity office in Salt Lake City, one employee sat with Monkey and Melodie for a few minutes and then said, “Wow, I can really feel a physical change just sitting here with her.” Various studies have documented the physical benefits, which include a decrease in blood pressure during contact for both the human and the dog, as well as a lowering of the stress hormone cortisol, and an increase in oxytocin levels, which is essential to our sense of well-being. The people that Therapy Animals of Utah serve often consist of those in hospitals, nursing and rehab facilities, mental health settings, shelters, schools, juvenile court, and the airport, and all are experiencing some type of stress. “The effects of oxytocin are beneficial in so many ways to them and the professionals that are working with them,” says Therapy Animals of Utah Executive Director Deb Carr. “Time and again, professionals are just amazed at what happens with their clients when they sit beside an animal on one of our visits. I always just smile and appreciate again and again what our animals are able to do for the people we serve.” And, as the scientific studies indicate, it’s mutually beneficial for the animals as well!