Mango 1
13
Nov

Canine Therapy

Twelve children, aged between 5 and 12, live in a group home in Valdivia, Chile, separated from their
families because of a history of abuse and violations of their basic human rights.
A typical day for these children can be quite gloomy; no caring parents to greet them in the morning, and
afternoons spent entertaining themselves in the dark living room of a 1000 sq ft house. Most days, they
are not allowed to play outside because they don’t have a backyard and the streets and nearby park are
packed with street dogs that often group together and scare the kids. The staff hired to live with the
children is composed of full time caregivers, which have not received any formal training in the
complexities of treating and healing damaged children like these ones. Government resources destined to
help these children recover and lead normal lives are scarce in this country.

Mango reporting for canine therapy

Mango making friends

Holly and Elsa

Canine therapy recruits Holly and Elsa

Experimental visits with Mango the Newfy, a therapy dog trained and used by the GAAP, have shown
promising results. Only the presence of Mango, a sweet dog with very special characteristics, can
stimulate laughter, lively conversations, and great excitement among these children who are generally
withdrawn, hostile, and resistant to healthy forms of social play, interactions, and activities.
Mango has great potential to help relieve the tension and anxiety typical in children that have experienced
abuses at a young age, and to help them process the difficult emotions they harbor. He has great
patience and a gentle temperament when socializing with them. The children look forward to Mango’s
weekly visits with great anticipation.
The GAAP is developing a long term project based on these preliminary successes. Along with Mango,
we will bring Elsa, an English Mastiff, and Holly the Chilean Terrier, to help out with the program. We aim
to establish regular visits to assist foster children in guided activities and free play, as well as to develop
their own personal relationships with the dogs.
The goals of the project will be to improve the children’s social skills and confidence as well as to
decrease their aggressive behaviors; to enhance their self-esteem; to foster healthy attachment
relationships; and to provide an opportunity to help these children to establish a nourishing relationship
with a pet, thereby overcoming their fear of dogs. The children’s behavioral responses to the dog’s
presence or absence will be regularly monitored to quantify the beneficial effects of the animal assisted
therapy.

Holly and Elsa 2
Collecting data about the process is critical in proving that our program works so that we can secure
long term funding from the government. But the day to day observations tell us the real story. Mango,
Elsa and Holly will most assuredly bring smiles to their faces; the children will laugh a little more in their
daily lives and each one will learn the pleasures of having a trusted furry companion to bury their face into
when the world is just too much.
If you would like to help these children by supporting this project, please contact us at info@thegaap.org

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