If you find walking with your dog keeps you energized or the purring of your cat lowers your anxiety levels, it's no coincidence. Zootherapist Audrey Desrosiers describes the benefits of animal presence in her new book, Au bout du sneau.In this work for the general public, she shows that a rabbit, a puppy, a horse and even an alpaca can become intervention partners with different people with dementia, young people who suffer from a language delay, children with behavioral problems or students susceptible to performance anxiety.
Audrey Desrosiers has been working since 2006 for the recognition of animal therapy and the creation of bridges between traditional practitioners. She works in schools and in private practice and offers seminars and training. She also hosts the Zoothérapie series on the Moi et Cie channel.
This year, she is publishing Au bout du museau, a comprehensive reference work on pet therapy and its benefits. She explains how the connection between humans and animals energizes therapeutic support and supports the practice of various specialists in the health sector. All sorts of issues are examined: cognitive disorders, anxiety disorders, behavioral disorders, anorexia, etc.
Who can benefit from pet therapy, in their opinion?
“What you need to see a psychologist, a physiotherapist, an occupational therapist, a speech therapist or a remedial teacher, or even a teacher who teaches you something, everything can be facilitated by the animal. It's really a motivator,” she explains, in a telephone interview from her Rosemont clinic.
The animal picks up micro-signals
“The thing is that the animal has access to information that the human does not. Let's say I'm looking at you, you're smiling and you look zen. The animal is going to tell me that you are stressed and super anxious, in fact, at the moment. You can fake me, pretending you're super zen, but you can't fake the animal.”
“When we are anxious, we release hormones. There are plenty of micro-signals that dogs detect: your heart rate is higher, your pupils are dilated, your cheeks are more red, you look like you're sweating.”
All that, the animal reads it… because we are animals, specifies Audrey.
“We stopped analyzing ourselves like that, but the animal, no . That's how the animal gives me another reading and I'll reflect it to you: well, it's curious, my dog seems more agitated. How do you feel inside? It opens a door for you.”
Audrey Desrosiers gives the example of a super-anxious little girl she sees in a private clinic who cries all the time and no longer functions normally at daycare. In the clinic, there was… a pig.
“She saw the pig. She jumped on it and started laughing. The pig farted. It started to stink. We laughed and she started talking to me, telling me why she was crying.”
The animal therapy expert explains the process.
“She needed to be relaxed. And the animal allowed that. I always say that half the job is done when you arrive with an animal because there is a connection.”
His work applies to different issues: language disorders, Tourette, dementia in the elderly, severe dyspraxia. Since 2010, she has also been trying to decompartmentalize all specializations to work as a team, using pet therapy.
- Audrey Desrosiers practices zootherapy in schools and in the private clinics Au bout du museau (Montreal, Quebec, Châteauguay, Mirabel).
- She also offers seminars and training.
- She hosts the series Zoothérapie on the Moi & Co.
“ We lack nature. Who could have imagined one day that we would invent a term for it? Yet here we are. What to do about this new “disease” which, let's face it, is affecting more and more children, in town or not, so busy inside homes with their digital babysitter… This machine which even offers to be virtually in nature (without getting dirty) and also to take care of a pet (without the real inconvenience of going outside in -10°C to take it out and make it do its business). What can be done for this? Go to the pharmacy and buy nature's miracle pills that would compensate for this deficiency? »