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October 30, 2018

Therapy Dogs Transform Lives in Spain

Yaracan therapy dog

At Zoetis, we know the human-animal bond is powerful. We’ve supported studies to show the benefits of therapy dogs for oncology patients and raised awareness about the ways pets can make people healthier. Now our colleagues in Spain are building on this work by sponsoring therapy dogs for children with autism, to help them develop social skills for the future. Read on to learn more about how these dogs, with the help of Zoetis, are making a difference in children’s lives.

Before the big arrival, Ariana barely noticed animals. Birds didn’t fly, and dogs didn’t bound down the street. “It was as if they didn’t exist,” said her mom, Aurora. Then Tango came along. And life for four-year-old Ariana, whose autism often kept her simply from leaving the family home in Madrid, changed entirely.

Tango is an autism service golden retriever with Yaracan, a Spanish animal assistance organization. With the support of Zoetis, in collaboration with the Adecco Foundation, Yaracan therapy dogs helped children develop cognitive, communicative and social skills over the last year at several special education schools in Madrid.

For Ariana (pictured below), one of 27 children in three schools helped by the program, the effects have been seismic.

When Tango first strode into the classroom at Gatea School last autumn, Ariana was confused. She retreated into a corner, and cried. Tango approached her gently, and touched the tip of his snout to Ariana’s foot. Ten minutes later, he laid his head in her lap. Ariana, still crying, slowly lowered her hand onto Tango’s tousled head. Eventually, she smiled.

It was the beginning of a momentous friendship. Ariana played games with Tango to develop her social skills. She learned to interact with other people, and see other animals. Ariana “began to play with our cat, Blu, who she had never noticed before,” said Vicente, Ariana’s dad. “She started pointing out birds and dogs in the park.”

Socialization with therapy animals can provide a vital gateway to better relationships with people. Ariana now understands the connections between animals and their sounds, and loves to bark, meow and chirp alongside them, which helps develop language skills.

Tango and Ariana, assisted by Tango’s trainer Begoña, even practiced walking outside - an activity whose constant stimulation previously overwhelmed Ariana. With Tango beside her Ariana overcame distractions, relaxed, and took cues from Tango, to follow the rules of the road, in her stride. “It’s been wonderful to see Tango help Ariana grow,” said Aurora. “We’re grateful to Zoetis for making this invaluable help available to our daughter.”

Zoetis Volunteers

Zoetis colleagues also got involved in the program. During the second and third semester of the school year, colleagues volunteered to work alongside two trainers and their therapy dogs, assisting in interaction strategies with the kids.

“This initiative is perfectly aligned with our activity and our commitment to contribute to society. As the leading animal health company, we are convinced of the benefit companion animals bring to society, especially therapy dogs that support the development of skills and key competencies for the future of these children,” said Susana, Human Resources Business Partner, Zoetis Spain.

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