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Why belly rubs can be the best therapy

Telly the therapy dog shows these youth how to trust and be trustworthy.

As a flurry of enthusiastic hands reach out to pat Telly, a few others would help me walk Telly to the hall where we conduct the Social Emotional Learning Group programme.

For Telly and I, our work is much more than a job.

We feel incredibly privileged to do work that we love, while helping people in their life journeys.

Telly has so much fun at work, interacting with people that shower her with love, kindness, treats, and a whole lot of belly rubs.

There’s something very special about the power of the human-animal bond, and its ability to touch lives, teach skills, and inspire change.

Even though I see it in action a lot, I’m still spellbound every time I witness Telly in action.

One of our favourite groups to work with are youths at a residential care home run by The Salvation Army. Each time we visit, we’d be greeted by excited squeals of “Telly!! Telly!!”

These youths look forward very much to seeing their good friend Telly, the therapy dog, and learning valuable social and emotional skills with her.

Sessions are engaging and filled with fun, laughter, and a ton of love.

Many youths in the residential care home are there because of at-risk behaviours or a lack of parental supervision. Many have experienced hurts and disappointments.

But Telly greets them with enthusiasm, accepts them for who they are, and showers them with unconditional love. These simple actions mean so much to them.

The youths love doing tricks with Telly. I have very fond memories of facilitating the youths in learning positive reinforcement dog training, where we’d promised Telly that we would give her a treat each time she did a trick correctly.

Afraid of disappointing her, one of the boys asked me if Telly would feel sad and stop trusting us if we did not keep our word.

Being with Telly teaches them how to love and be loved, to trust others, and to also be trustworthy themselves.

I have seen how these youths, who are often labelled negatively by society, treat Telly with the utmost kindness, patience and love. It’s truly amazing!

I often hear the phrase “Telly makes me feel happy.” It never fails to warm my heart, and it keeps us continually doing what we are doing.


Maureen and Telly together make up Pawsibility, working with those who have special needs, or are struggling with addictions, anger management issues, depression, stress and trauma from such triggers as divorce or bullying. Human and dog help them to navigate challenges, make sense of experiences and learn social emotional skills.

Find out more about Pawsibility’s Social Emotional Learning programmes with schools and residential homes for children and youths.

Want to see Telly in action? Watch how she helps everyone — from a young girl to the elderly.

Contributors
Photographer  :   Grace Baey
Writer  :   Maureen Huang

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