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Explaining the Popularity of Comfort Animals

By Brandi Goodman

Comfort Animals

In today’s often harsh and ever-busy world, finding a means of comfort is necessary. Anxieties take hold of our minds and depression makes us feel irritable and isolated. A comfort animal has become a popular solution in recent years to help people ease their worries and make them feel as though they aren’t alone.

Understanding what, exactly, a comfort animal is and does can help you determine if a support system like this is worthwhile for your needs.

Isn’t a Comfort Animal Just Another Name for a Pet?

Though all pets can provide comfort to their owners and help lower blood pressure and levels of stress, not all pets are deemed comfort animals. True comfort animals are also referred to as therapy or emotional support animals (ESA). They are individually trained to provide companionship and support to their owners. They are sensitive to instances of high stress, anxiety, and depression, and know when to stay by their owners’ sides.

Dogs and other species can be trained to provide comfort and affection to one or more people. Some nursing homes even allow pets for this reason. One dog will visit all or many residents in the home and offer companionship to those who need it most. Schools, hospitals, and disaster areas sometimes use therapy animals to ease the worries of those who can benefit most.

Does It Take Special Training to Be a Comfort Dog?

To be deemed a comfort dog, canines must receive a therapy dog certification. They must demonstrate basic obedience, calmness when around other people and animals, an ability to remain focused despite distractions within their surroundings, and more. You can train your dog yourself and have it take the canine good citizen test to prove their good-natured demeanor.

A therapy animal should be able to accept strangers, sit politely, walk through a crowd, and come to their owner when called. You’ll also want to ensure they can handle supervised separation. This task has the dog sitting on a leash with another person who is not their owner. The dog should be able to remain calm in someone else’s presence without their owner nearby and not bark or seem overly agitated for having to do so.

Training for Therapy

On top of basic obedience and related skills, an emotional support animal also needs to be trained to handle the emotional needs of their owner. If you do not feel confident training your dog yourself, you can recruit a trainer who can help. Your dog needs to know certain commands beyond “no” and “come.” He must also know “leave it,” “watch me,” and anything specific you need them to know or do as your ESA.

Is a Comfort Dog the Same as a Service Animal?

Some people believe comfort and service animals are interchangeable. While they may have similar benefits, service dogs have job duties far beyond what a therapy dog provides. Owners often must train service dogs to handle a particular task, such as opening doors, fetching particular items, and even retrieving medication and bringing it to their handler. Guide dogs for people with vision challenges fit this category. A person with a disability who needs more help day-to-day will require a service dog rather than a comfort companion. Someone who suffers from depression or anxiety and simply needs a friend by their side to help them cope, would benefit more from an ESA.

Comfort Animals and Housing

A major concern for many people who require a comfort animal is whether their landlord will allow it. Some say only service dogs can live in apartments and rental units, while others allow registered ESAs as well. Under the Fair Housing Act (FHA), all ESAs are to be allowed. If your landlord attempts to give you trouble for having a comfort animal, you can report them for failing to adhere to the rules of equal housing opportunity.

Though an ESA is excluded from any no-pet policies, the animal’s registration paperwork may not be enough to convince the home or building owner. You may need a doctor-verified letter proving your need for having the animal. The doctor should be licensed as a mental health professional, and you should have an actual diagnosis to qualify. However, you do not need to prove said diagnosis or any further details to the landlord beyond what is provided in the letter.

Famous People Who Had Comfort Animals

Several famous names have had comfort animals to soothe them. These companions are not just for the average person, but anyone who may require emotional support for anxiety, depression, and related symptoms. Selena Gomez is one celebrity who has been open about her need for her ESAs. She has several dogs who help her with her symptoms of anxiety. Bradley Cooper has an ESA named Charlotte. He adores his chow-retriever mix. Before her passing, Carrie Fisher also spoke about her ESA, Gary. Her french bulldog helped her cope with her bipolar disorder.

The Tale of the Comfort Alligator

Emotional support alligators may not sound like a real thing. Yet, there are some people who rely on these reptiles to provide the same duties that a dog often does. A man named Joie Henney from Pennsylvania, for example, has become well-known on TikTok for having an emotional support alligator. WallyGator, as he’s been named, is quite the sensation. Henney told the CBS Evening News that when he fell into a depression after loss in his life, Wally became more affectionate toward him. He now takes his pal everywhere, including the water park, drive-thru, doctor’s appointments, and more. His doctor is even the one who helped Henney register Wally as his emotional support animal.

Let Comfort and Chiropractic Collide

The comfort you get from your animal is ideal for overall well-being, but it isn’t enough for optimal health on its own. Let comfort and chiropractic collide for true well-being. An adjustment followed by helpful advice from The Joint Chiropractic can ensure your body is flexible and your mind is right to focus on healthier habits going forward. When combined with exercise and nutritious foods, you have an even better chance at being truly comfortable in life -- all with your animal companion by your side.

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