History of Newfoundlands
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.
Why Animal Assisted Therapy?
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.