Review By CAROLYN M. MULLIN
Animals used for therapeutic services are seen all over the American landscape, but their presence in children’s literature is just now making its foray. After chronicling her struggles with the real-life Toby (read: destructive, erratic behavior) in the adult work On Toby’s Terms, author Charmaine Hammond scripted the first in a series for kids – Toby the Pet Therapy Dog and His Hospital Friends.
This early reader is a basic introduction to the purpose and need of therapy animals. Toby, referred to as (my pet peeve) “it” only once, is the canine companion of Miss Charmaine, who takes him every Wednesday to the local hospital. Toby visits with and cheers up patients both young and old. He accompanies an elderly woman on her walk, falls asleep during storytime, and helps a young girl overcome her fear of dogs. All in a day’s work!
But working is also where my contention lies in general with this subject of therapy animals. Why should they be defined by their “purpose”? Can they not simply exist for their own intrinsic value? Sure, these themes and ideas may be better broached with an older audience, but language is an important educator no matter what a person’s age. The book does provide basic critical thinking questions to pose to a child, but I’d be interested to further ask “What is service?” and “When is it best given? Freely?”
Overall, Hammond carries out a tenderhearted telling of an important relationship within the human-animal bond, and the illustrations are painterly, sweet and honest. This book is a great starting point for any child curious about animals trained for therapy.
Ages 4 to 8.
Jessica // Mar 17, 2012 at 1:00 pm
I think the topic of animals in therapy is an interesting one.
When I was in high school, my animal rights club did animal therapy at a nearby retirement home with Alzheimer patients. I brought our dog who seemed to enjoy going for a ride and getting some extra attention. Now, I’m fortunate to live with Cassie, a cat who’s extraordinarily attentive to people when they’re sick or hurt. I’ve always thought that if I ever needed to stay overnight in the hospital, I’d want Cassie there with me.
Carolyn M. Mullin // Mar 20, 2012 at 10:44 am
It is an interesting topic. Last year I met some gals from a SoCal Humane Society at an elementary school career day and they told me they even bring the dogs to college campuses during finals, in an effort to relieve stress.
They also mentioned that the dogs do need regular breaks from all the petting and attention.
Jessica // Mar 20, 2012 at 1:31 pm
Law schools too! Yale has a dog that students can “check out” from the library: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/22/education/22dog.html
Jen // Mar 20, 2012 at 9:35 pm
I’m completely fascinated with therapy animals. We have one in the extended family (she gets read to by children with learning differences), and I’m interested in the benefits of using animal assisted therapy to help people on the autism spectrum…and, i think, a benefit can accrue to the animals as well in certain situations. This is an extreme but fascinating instance of horses playing a role in one boy’s accessibility. http://www.horseboymovie.com/Film.php