Healing Power of Paws

A powerful healing weapon just might walk your way on all fours.

Studies show contact with animals impacts us emotionally and physically. That means people dealing with anything from depression to heart disease to cancer can benefit from the healing power of paws.

Gracie the poodle recently demonstrated the impact of pets during a session at the Cotton-O'Neil Cancer Center, presented by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Steve Clemens and Michelle Desmarteau were among patients who attended. Steve has acute myelogenous leukemia and Michelle has Hodgkins lymphoma. For them, these paws give them "pause" from the demands of their illness.

Michelle says the unconditional love of animals can life the spirits, while Steve says it makes you feel better about things in general.

Science backs up the impact she had as she wagged her way from person to person. Nancie Palmer of the Prairieland Visiting Animals Association says research shows petting and stroking an animal slows the breathing, lowers the blood pressure and helps you relax. Plus, Palmer says the emotional effect is obvious when you see the smiles on people's faces.

Gracie also can be the great motivator. What she does for treats can drive a person with cancer or another illness to work for something more. Palmer says something that gets people interacting stirs up a human connection, and when you have that human connection, you feel better and that helps the healing process.

It has been a long process for Steve and Michelle, but Michelle says she's come to the conclusion to live for today and not wait for tomorrow because you don't know what will happen.

With a little extra support from Gracie, they know no day will get too "rough."

For more on the benefits of pet therapy, visit The Delta Society.

The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society sponsors education programs each month at the Cotton-O'Neil Cancer Center, 1414 SW 8th Ave., Topeka. For more information or to register, call Christy Thomas at 316-687-2222 or 1-800-779-2417.

Following is the schedule of topics:

May 18
10 to 11 am
"Paving the Way for Progress: Clinical Trials"

June 15
10 to 11 am
"Meet the Expert on Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma"

July 20
10 to 11 am
"Why do drugs cost so much and what you can do to lower costs"

August 17
10 to 11 am
"Understanding Medicare part D"
Complimentary lunch served at 11 am
11 am to Noon
"Breaking Through the Age Barrier: Getting the Best Cancer Treatment"

September 21
10 to 11 am
"Eating and Cancer: Before, During and After Treatment"

October 19
10 to 11 am

November 16
10 to 11 am
"Thoughts for the Holidays"

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