Therapy dogs help people de-stress in an unconventional way

Local News

PEORIA, Ill. — The American Institute of Stress says 77 percent of people experience physical symptoms caused by stress.

Wednesday is National Stress Awareness Day and it can be helpful to recognize stressors in your life.

“Stress is a threat that overwhelms our resources,” said Kevin Siscoe, a professional counselor at The Antioch Group.

One group is working to help people de-stress and calm down across central Illinois.

W.O.O.F. stands for ‘we offer our friends’ and is a group of therapy dog teams that visit with all types of people. In the area, they visit schools, nursing homes, and hospitals and see instant changes in the people they help.

“They’ll cuddle with them. They’ll give them just a slight little lick on their hand, just to let them know that they’re there with them,” said Sally Norman, with W.O.O.F.

If stress builds up, it can lead to physical symptoms like headaches, stomachaches, and fatigue, which is why finding a way to manage stress is key.

“One stress reduction strategy is to do something enjoyable, to have a hobby, and obviously, it’s something that’s not going to stress you out more,” said Siscoe.

For teams with W.O.O.F., they see the impact animals can have every day.

“We have witnessed amazing, countless interactions with our dogs and the people we’re visiting,” said Joy Belsley with W.O.O.F.

As therapy dogs, Crosby and Charley often visit with people in stressful and scary situations.

“The studies show that there’s a decrease in blood pressure, in stress levels, and it also shows that it’s an antidote to depression for people as well,” said Belsley.

The dog owners find the experience rewarding ad say the dogs do too.

“They love it. They really think they’re important,” said Belsley.

While everyone copes differently, experts say recognizing stress and being aware is important.

“Enjoy the companionship of a four-legged, furry friend is really a good thing, can be positive for many people…. with information, awareness about stress reduction, that oh, no others do go through this also,” said Siscoe.

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