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Therapy Dogs Helping Heal from an Eating Disorder

-Created by an anonymous volunteer from The Emily Program Foundation

 
goldenI have always had a love for animals! When I was battling the worst of my eating disorder, my parents decided that I could buy a cat (which is one of my favorite animals). My sister and I went to the Humane Society. I fell in love with a scrawny female grey cat that was around 9 months old. After visiting with her and having a discussion with my parents they decided to let me adopt her. I named her Shirley. I came to learn that Shirley would be my best friend during my lonely times when my parents would go out and I was left home alone. She would sit with me and watch tv. I learned the importance of taking care of myself so that I could take care of Shirley.

Animals are very important to me because of the support and loving that they provide. I have always loved cats and had many when I was younger. Shirley was special because she helped me through a difficult time in which I was struggling with food and body image problems. I was restricting a lot. Having Shirley gave me something to focus on other than my eating habits.

I have done some research on animals that can help with healing from an eating disorder. There are service dogs that have been used for people with eating disorders. I think this would be a great benefit for the person as well as for the animal. Dogs can serve as Therapy Dogs or Emotional Support Dogs:

“Two factors must be simultaneously present for a dog to be considered a service dog: A person with a life-limiting disability and a dog who has been individually trained to mitigate the manifestation of that person’s disability.”

Emotional Support Dogs do not need extra training but Therapy Dogs do. Emotional Support Dogs provide companionship. This is what Shirley was to me, despite being a cat! Emotional support dogs are allowed in places that otherwise would prohibit an animal. They can also travel in the same area as the person on the plane. Each eating disorder presents itself in a different
way. Contacting support in finding a animal that helps with this disability may be very beneficial. Here is a link to a site that provides further information:

https://guidinggolden.wordpress.com/2013/02/26/assistance-from-service-dogs-for-people-witheating-
disorders/

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