The Healing Power of Dogs

"Afternoons with Puppy” make for brighter days in a new book about animal-assisted therapy.

We all know our dogs have an innate gift for brightening bad days and healing emotional wounds. But perhaps no one has studied this ability more intently than Dr. Aubrey H. Fine, who has spent more than 25 years researching animal-assisted therapy (AAT). A licensed psychologist, editor of “The Handbook on Animal Assisted Therapy,” and a professor at California State Polytechnic University, Fine has invested the bulk of his professional career into the field of AAT.

“Afternoons with Puppy: Inspirations From a Therapist and His Animals” (Purdue University Press), by Fine and co-author Cynthia J. Eisen, delves into Fine’s firsthand observations of AAT with his own animals and patients. The book focuses on one animal in particular: Fine’s beloved Golden Retriever, Puppy.

“‘Afternoons with Puppy’ pays tribute to the therapy dog that changed my approach to psychotherapy. Puppy’s initial role was simple: make everyone feel comfortable and wanted. But through my experiences with this wonderful, sensitive dog, I learned the deep value of incorporating animals into the fabric of my therapeutic technique. … She became not only my first therapy dog, but also the matriarch of my practice and was involved in making the difference not only in the lives of many, but also in my life,” Fine writes.

The book contains many moving stories, like that of ADHD-afflicted Charles, an isolated and melancholy boy whom Puppy helped to communicate his feelings. “I told her it’s hard to be me,” Charles explained to Fine in a breakthrough session.

The book also features stories about Fine’s other dogs: Shrimp, the runt of Puppy’s litter; Labrador Retriever Hart; Golden Retriever P.J.; and the youngest Fine dog, Magic. And lest the rest of the animal kingdom feel left out, Fine also recounts therapy experiences with Conures Tilly, Buddy, Boomer, and Polly, guinea pig Houdini, and Sasha the mouse.

“Afternoons with Puppy” is on sale now.

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Dogs · Lifestyle