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The modern profession of animal-assisted therapy was born in 1962, when a New York psychotherapist named Boris Levinson described how his dog, Jingles, had helped him better communicate with children in his practice. Levinson had discovered the positive effect Jingles had on young patients by chance: One day, a very withdrawn boy arrived early for his appointment, and the dog was in Levinson’s office. Levinson immediately noticed that the child responded well to Jingles, and from that day on, the young patient was less distant and more inclined to talk during his therapy session, as long as Jingles was in the room. It seemed to Levinson that the dog was able to act as a sort of go-between, helping the child feel more at ease in the strange and somewhat frightening therapy setting. Although Levinson’s claims were initially ridiculed by his fellow professionals (who often asked jokingly if Levinson shared his fee with the dog), the concept of using animals to help in the psychological treatment of children began to win support. When Levinson surveyed 435 psychothera- pists in New York State in 1972, he found that one-third of them had used pets in their practices. During the early 1970s in Ann Arbor,Michigan, the Chil- dren’s Psychiatric Hospital adopted a resident dog name Skeezer, who spent seven years on the ward, “proving that with proper training a dog can help open pathways into the minds and hearts of disturbed children.” Skeezer was so popular that after he retired, he became the subject of a book and a TV movie. By this time, “petmobile” programs had begun to spring up around the country. They would bring visiting animals to nursing homes and other institu- tions for people with special needs. 18 Animal Therapist. The field of animal-assisted therapy has continued to grow through the present day. It has now expanded to include “assistance animals” like guide dogs for the blind and hearing dogs for the deaf. In 1989, the Delta Society was created to oversee this rapidly expanding field in the United States, and a Delta Society–sponsored program called “Pet Partners” was started to provide training stan- dards and guidelines for certifying therapy and assistance animals and their handlers nationwide. At the same time, therapeutic horseback riding programs were developed by the North American Riding for the Handicapped Associa- tion (NARHA).

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