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Pet Therapy for Children at Pressley Ridge

Pressley Ridge’s Home Places Gets a New Kind of Therapy  From Four-Legged Friends

At Pressley Ridge’s Home Places, a small residential program in Pittsburgh that provides services to children and adolescents with developmental delays and behavioral problems, Sue Ezzo, RN and Corinne Lane, FLS Coordinator at the Allegheny County Day School, bring their dogs to provide pet therapy to the youth in the program twice a month. “Pet therapy at Pressley Ridge is my favorite time of the week,” explains Sue. “Seeing the children interact with my four dogs in a playful but gentle manner is very rewarding. They are always polite to me and respectful of the dogs.”

The sessions with the dogs are nothing short of magical according to Home Places staff, filled with smiling faces and laughter (and maybe even a gentle “woof” or two). This time gives our kids an opportunity to practice being responsible. It’s a reminder that there is something in their lives that is within their control – their special relationships with these pups.  

The children get a sense of pride and accomplishment in walking the dogs, playing fetch, asking them to sit and praising them for responding to directions. At times, one of the kids may be feeling upset or frustrated, even be on the brink of escalation, but the reminder of pet therapy day tends to calm the situation.

Sue, Corinne and the dogs have become an integral part of the Home Places community. The kids often ask how they are doing and count the days to their next visit.

Due to their developmental delays, the children are used to being cared for by their Teacher/Counselors. The pet therapy sessions give them the opportunity to take care of a living creature. They help to groom, feed and water the dogs. They take this responsibility seriously and approach it with a sense of pride and autonomy.

In the fall of 2011, the Home Places youth planned a “thank you” party to show their appreciation for Sue, Corinne and their dogs, each of whom received homemade dog biscuits and tie-dyed bandanas.

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