Recently we published a blog on defining pet pigs as therapy animals and there were a lot of people that took to it. We wanted to present the good and amazing side to the work that real and properly registered animals bestow on us. Although Emotional Support Animals are REAL and do serve most people with a very valid purpose, we want you to meet a highly registered therapy pig that helps the community in so many ways! Meet Michelle and Patsy Swine...
Hi Pet Pig Team, I wanted to share a little insight on how Patsy Swine was able to become a certified therapy pig. I'm not sure that therapy work is suitable for all pigs. I've been lucky enough to have two that have been certified, both for work in complex situations, but both are very different personalities. Patsy came to me after she had been mauled by a dog, surprisingly she's still comfortable around dogs and her other therapy "friends." Because I knew that we would be working with children I wanted to know that she was as safe as possible in any situation. Lets face it, kids are scary and pigs are strong! I worked with Patsy until she was able to complete the canine therapy dog test, since most people assume that a pig is just like a dog, they expect them to act like a dog. So far from reality some days! So many of the things that Patsy learned are very much against her normal piggy instinct but they're also things that people assume she should be fine with...again it's an assumption that shes a dog in pig form.
Patsy sits, stays, lays down and walks on a leash. The sit stay and come were difficult. Delayed reward is difficult for a piggy to understand. Patsy had to ignore people grabbing her to hug her, had to let anyone pick up her feet, check her ears, open her mouth and offer food and take it away. Take food away from a pig!? 😱 Patsy had to be non reactive during loud noises or being bumped by someone unsteady on their feet. Because of work and family commitments, Patsy and I mainly work in the libraries with a program called Paws2read. We meet with children one on one. Some kids are struggling to read for various reasons and Patsy provides support, a listening ear and the opportunity for the child to grow and feel comfortable with no fear of judgement. Funny enough, she'll often grunt during a pause or quietly "squeek" when appropriate and of course, she smiles. I had to learn as much as Patsy so I could interact appropriately as well. As humans we need to also be well trained to know how to react and simply respond in any given situation that may present itself, after all, we are the handlers. I love the work and as far as I can tell, Patsy does too! She runs to the front door and takes herself up her ramp to get in the car. Her worse tantrums are if she thinks we should be going somewhere snd we don't. All in all we only volunteer about 8 to 10 regular hours a month and some extra special events. We're starting at the Ronald McDonald house very soon.
What is the difference between an Emotional Support animal and a Therapy Animal? Great question and one that often gets very mixed up! The website at the bottom of this paragraph does a wonderful job at explaining the difference between different titles and shows the canine test that Patsy and I performed. It is basically an obedience trial. You can guess why most pigs arent suitable. 😊 I chose Pet Partners for the evaluation and registration since they are one of the largest and best known therapy and service dog organizations. I think one of the best reasons for getting registered is that we are covered with liability insurance through Pet Partners. There really is no benefit for me personally to have Patsy registered as a therapy pet. It really costs me time and money but allows us to visit hospitals, libraries, nursing homes, etc. Since Patsy is not a service animal we don't get any special priveleges. Therapy animals are bound by the same rules and regulations as any other pet. I spend more time being her emotional support than vice versa. Its hard work dealing with new and stressful situations and there are times that she sleeps for hours after a visit. Pet Partners actually limits therapy work to 2 hours a day to protect the pets health and wellbeing. Animals must be re-evaluated every 2 years and at a minimum, handlers must take a new online course every 2 years. Some animals cant do therapy work long term because the stress takes a toll. Keep in mind its a solid 2 hours of being highly vigilant and focused and non reactive. I'm fairly sure that the only animals allowed to be service pets are dogs and mini horses (This is entirely accurate, Pet Pig Confirmed that). Happily, I have noticed that there seems to be a change in some public zoning to allow pigs as pets but I cringe when people try to label their pet as therapy or support as a means to try to get service dog allowances. Those of us with registered therapy pets spent a huge amount of time and effort to accomplish the registration, we dont get any personal benefit except for what we get in helping others and we're very careful in how we handle our pets. As in the case with the pig on the plane, it just takes one pet placed in an unfair or dangerous situation to create doubt with the actual work that we do. Please visit the following link to see the exact tests Patsy and I went through:
Patsy has some of her favorite books and friends she wants to share! I hope this is a little extra insight into the life of a therapy pig. Its not for everyone but I do think it has helped keep Patsy Swine from becoming bored and spoiled! So many victories for us and for the community! 💕
Thank you Michelle for taking the time to share your story with our community! We hope it has not only enlightened some but put a smile and warm feelings in the hearts of all our readers, it sure resonated with us!
Except opening and closing remarks, this blog was written and shared by Michelle V.
The Hog Blog...
Jodi will be keeping up the blog but we are more interested in guest bloggers! Please contact us via email if you may be interested! Check back to see who our guest blogger is and what topic we will be exploring.