I am volunteering at an Orphan Children’s Hostel in Varanasi, India. I hear the young girls begin to scream early in the morning before school is to begin. I go running up the stairs to see what all the ‘fuss’ is about. Several of the girls have long sticks and are poking under the lockers. One of the girls shares with me that their are kittens under the lockers. I look over at the next set of stairs to see the mother Cat looking and meowing for her kittens.
I ask the Girls to stop, bend down, and I pick up one of the kittens. They scream, “Didi (sister in Hindi) what are you doing?” I say, “You believe in God, yes?” “Yes, Didi.” “You believe all Animals are God, yes?” “Yes, Didi.” “Me too, and I love my God. I do not want to hit my God with sticks. These kittens are scared, just like you and see their Mother on the stairs who loves them. She is like your MotherJi who loves you.” Then, one of them asks to touch the kitten. “Oh, it is so soft! Oh, how sweet! How can we help?” and all the girls take turns, sharing they have never touched one before. The girls then bring me a box, we catch the others, and take them to room with the mother Cat following. Then, a lesson begins on the five basic things every Animal needs to live and thrive.
This experience awakened a dream I did not know I had. I knew I love Children, I knew I love Animals; however, I did not know I had laying dormant in me a dream to bring Orphan Children and Orphan Animals together to heal each other. Teaching Compassion with Animals I had been doing, it was part of the reason I was in India as an Animal Chaplain; however, to see Orphan Children on the streets competing for food scraps, witnessing Children being taught to be cruel to the Animals or to ignore their conditions, even witnessing the homeless Children themselves being ignored, solicited into gangs, broke my heart open to a degree which I have never experienced before.
I knew then where my Soul was or IS leading me.
Many of us have heard, maybe have experienced, or we intuitively know that Animals have the ability to heal. However, let us dig into the “science.”
Here is a list of 20 reasons (in a simple, and fun list) for benefits with Animals, which includes better health, having a friend and playmate, a cuddling companion, building higher self-esteem, lowering blood pressure, better communication skills, just to name a few from this simple list. Take a look at the list of 20 reasons for yourself.
Now, in the New York Times back in 1990, there are several studies showing some “unexpected psychological benefits” for Children. The Animals were significant in reaching emotionally traumatized Children, ones that are hard-to-reach, stating how the qualities which make pets beneficial to children also help in psychotherapy with building a rapport, bolstering the self-esteem of traumatized children, helping with social skills, more socially competent, feeling better about themselves, and buffering loneliness.
”It made the children more cooperative and sharing,” said Dr. Sue Doescher, a psychologist involved in the study. ”Having a pet improves children’s role-taking skills because they have to put themselves in the pet’s position and try to feel how the pet feels. And that transfers to how other kids feel.”
In the article it shares a study of done with Farm Animals where 100 Children were part of an innovative treatment program. These Children were severely neglected or had experienced extreme physical or emotional abuse. The daily contact and responsibilities with the Animals gave them a sense of worth.
Dr Ross stated, “For many children whose nurturing has been faulty, taking care of an animal can interrupt the cycle of abuse repeating itself over generations. They can learn to be care-givers, even if they haven’t been well cared for themselves.”
The article also shares the study done with the tending of injured Animals was shown to be extremely powerful in teaching resilience, showing the Children an even deeper compassion and the feeling that if the Animals can do it with one leg missing, I can do it too. Please see the full New York Times article here.
In the Huffington Post, Dr. Gail Gross shares, “My very dear friend is a horse whisperer, who has helped many children with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) heal. One day while having lunch together, I asked her to explain to me why animals, and horses in particular, help children with PTSD recover. She explained to me that children of abuse and domestic violence, as well as children who have physical and emotional challenges, respond to horses (and other animals) because they intuitively recognize that they can trust them.”
She goes on to share how Children can naturally feel how Animals do not judge or criticize them, they love them unconditionally. See full article here.
Here is another source from the BlueDog.org with a clear list of benefits.
And another from School is Easy here adding Autism, helping with reading, and exercise.
The Pet Health Network shares, “This extraordinary relationship has been scientifically evaluated and a 2008 study published in Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatryby Nancy Parish-Plass showed that abused or neglected children responded better to therapy if an animal was present. The therapists reported that nervous, withdrawn, or frightened children became more relaxed and engaged when a pet was present.”
The article goes on to share, “Families considering adopting a child should seriously consider adopting a pet. Dr. Deanna Linville conducted a study and followed 20 American families who adopted children from Russia or Romania. She found it interesting that all 20 families had pets, most of them rescues.”
What do all of these benefits have in common……Compassion. The Children learn to nurture their Compassion. The Animals bring it out because they give it naturally. We want a more compassionate world, then we need to live it, give it, share it, TEACH it, and most of all demonstrate it with our Children. That is what Animals do.
Many children, just as I did, have a natural awe and love of Animals; however, are taught to fear them, for many reasons. We as Children we are taught to ‘use’ them, whether for food, protection, clothing, entertainment, or otherwise. Basically, that some Animals are good and some Animals are bad or that we are superior to them.
So, my favorite benefit……compassion. And compassion leads to Peace.
When a Child’s natural compassion is nurtured, we create more compassionate adults.
When we create more compassionate adults, we create a more compassionate world.