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GUEST COLUMN: There’s a word for our deep affiliation with animals

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Susan Roberts

Some of the best things in life are free. Even better, some of those best things are right here in Sarnia. The Children’s Animal Farm is a perfect example.

When Meagan was a young girl animals were her best medicine.

“My parents would be fighting. I would hold my dogs and talk to them,” she told me. “They would just listen and comfort me. They probably didn’t know what I was saying, but would just listen without telling me what to do.”

Meagan, now a young adult, is in treatment at a London clinic for bulimia nervosa. Part of her healing process is to learn how to love and care for herself.

Meagan made a list of self-soothing activities that included going to see animals. When she brought this idea to me, my first thought was, “No problem, we can just go to the Children’s Animal Farm.”

But there was a problem – driving to Canatara Park from London where I work was not doable. I had to dig deep and eventually found a farm, Apple Land Orchard, fifteen minutes from London where we paid $6 to see a few baby pigs, goats, horses, and sheep. I realized that day how lucky we are here In Sarnia to have the Animal Farm.

A colleague of mine, Julie Casey, owns and operates an animal therapeutic service in Middlesex County called Nourishing Hearts. Casey says there is an instinctive bond between animals and humans, known as biophilia. As humans, we are genetically predisposed to be fascinated by the living would around us, she said. We can connect with animals emotionally.

Enjoying interaction with other living creatures increases our levels of oxytocin – the hormone that creates positive feelings and a sense of soothing and calmness. By engaging in such pleasurable activity, over time, it can decrease a person’s anxiety and increase trust and wellbeing. Long-term physical health benefits can include decreased pulse rates, lower blood pressure and decreased inflammation, to name a few.

Meagan, who lives in London, plans to visit Sarnia’s Animal Farm when she has completed her treatment. Meanwhile, I made sure on a recent walk through Canatara to stop in and see the goats, donkeys and llamas. I don’t know how long it had been. Has anyone else forgotten how precious it is to feed, pet and talk to animals? And do we understand how lucky we are to have that option here a daily basis? If I had the time, I would visit the farm daily.

Casey explained that by simply recalling being at the animal farm we can reap the benefits. With that in mind, next time I feel like some deep mediation I will just close my eyes, visualize the beautiful creatures at Canatara and chant to myself a simple meditative verse like, E…I…E…I…O.

Susan Roberts is a mental health worker in London who lives in Sarnia and loves to write about the community




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