The agency’s first therapy dog, Archie, joined Casa Pacifica in 2005. The goal in introducing Archie to Casa Pacifica was to bring comfort and unconditional warmth and acceptance to children at a vulnerable and difficult time. The Newfoundland breed, or “Newfie,” was chosen due to their reputation as being gentle with children. In the earliest days, Archie was used in various capacities to provide animal-assisted interventions to alleviate negative emotions, provide motivation to re-engage in social activities, and to enhance social interactions. He was also used in marketing and outreach to engage the community. Today, Casa Pacifica continues to bring Newfies to the campus to provide auxiliary therapeutic support to youth in residence, and to provide for the opportunity for educating the community about high-risk youth and the work of the agency.
Many youth alums have come back to Casa Pacifica and reflected on the difference therapy dogs made in their time spent away from home. They talk about how experiences with the therapy dogs buffered them from loneliness, gave them hope, or provided them with warmth on a hard day. Recently, a youth disclosed that she attributed her cessation of cutting to the daily routine of brushing one of the dogs. This result is consistent with studies that demonstrate stroking dogs can provide stress relief and buffer people from loneliness. Moreover, in residential treatment facilities where youth typically experience little privacy of their personal information, therapy dogs can offer a private, shared, and confidential space, implicit comfort, and a home-like experience, providing a distraction from the youth’s problems.
If the treatment team believes that animal-assisted interventions could benefit the treatment, then a plan is designed incorporating specific tasks the youth can perform with a therapy dog to address the treatment plan goals.
Camino a Casa works with Whole Heart Equine Assisted Therapy to provide equine therapy services for its clients. Below is a description of services taken from Whole Heart’s website:
“Whole Heart can help you learn about yourself, about your own integrity and leadership in your life, through the power and honesty of horses.
At Whole Heart, we offer the unique opportunity for self-discovery through the holistic experience of working with horses. This hands-on form of therapy, for individuals, youth, families or groups, provides deep insight into behavioral patterns and self-limiting beliefs as well as the opportunity to gain powerful tools for change. With the collaborative effort of a licensed therapist, an EAGALA certified horse professional and a team of horses, the you are able to powerfully experience the relationship with their self and others.”
Corey Cardenas is a certified EAGALA (Equine Assisted Growth and Learning) specialist since 2011. “I have been in love with horses for as long as I can remember, and riding them since I was 3 years old. Although horses are big and strong, as prey animals they are wonderfully present, simply honest and able to read body language with a subtle art. Spending most of my life with horses, I have been shaped and trained by these majestic animals. I have learned to pay greater attention to those around me. With a compassionate curiosity for my fellow human beings, and a long path of meditation and self-inquiry, I have teamed with my horses in the last seven years to help people in all walks of life. My horses include Gracie, Koa and the two miniature horses, Sassy and Magic.”