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  Life   More Features  06 Apr 2017  Paw power to the rescue

Paw power to the rescue

THE ASIAN AGE. | GARIMA ARORA
Published : Apr 6, 2017, 4:00 am IST
Updated : Apr 6, 2017, 4:03 am IST

An initiative is providing people suffering from anxiety and mental disorders with pet dogs, to convert frowns into smiles.

Fur Ball Story is providing what is called a ‘pet therapy’ to people who experience frequent mood swings and mental disorders.
 Fur Ball Story is providing what is called a ‘pet therapy’ to people who experience frequent mood swings and mental disorders.

You move out of your home town. Or, you have a break up with a loved one. Or, you are simply having a bad day. Bad experiences in life can always take a toll on your mind. How about a cute ball of fur coming to your rescue? Ever imagined what it would be like if you have a lively, playful dog or purry, sweet cat to play with, during such times?

Fur Ball Story (Fur Ball…) is providing what is called a ‘pet therapy’ to people who experience frequent mood swings and mental disorders. An initiative of Shrishti Sharma (law student), Animesh Katiar (lawyer), Arushi Dixit (fashion designer) and Kunal Daral (IT professional), Fur Ball… provides people with relief sessions with three dogs — a golden retriever named Angel, a labrador named Muffin, and shih tzu named Cocoa. These dogs are trained as therapy dogs and can meet over 40-50 people in a day without barking or snapping at them.

“It is a well-known fact that people do feel good and happy around animals. There are certain hormonal changes that one experiences, which makes one feel lighter and stress-free, when one plays or spends time with pets,” says Shrishti.

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Today, in the bandwagon of practices like meditation and counselling, ‘pet therapy’ is a practice which is helping fight anxieties and mental disorders. Defined as “guided interaction between a person and a trained animal”, pet therapy also involves an animal handler. At Fur Ball…, which was created in December 2016, Varun Anand is canine behaviourist and trainer.

“It was during a youth festival in our college when Animesh decided to start something like this. Being a part the administration of the event, he had a lot of responsibilities on his head and felt extremely stressed because of it. Then one day, he just thought of taking a break and went out to play with the dogs in our college (Symbiosis Law School, Noida) and felt much lighter and happier after that,” Shrishti quips.

After some research, these four friends got together and started the venture, where they also look forward to concerns like animal adoption and increasing sensitivity towards animal abuse.

According to Shrishti, people aged between 20 and 35 years are the ones whom they primarily target. “We mostly want to cater to the IT industry because people employed in these companies are the ones who are extremely stressed and worked up. As part of this, we hold sessions with people for a few hours where they can play and spend time with the pets,” she says.

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Aanchal Kalra, a freelance photographer based in Mumbai, says she’s been suffering from anxiety ever since she was 16 and nothing helped her as much as pet therapy did, to overcome it.

“When I lost my adopted pet two years ago, I never thought I would be able to overcome the stress and replace her with anyone else. However, I tried pet therapy for around three weeks and it really helped me to feel happy and just be myself,” expresses Aanchal.

“I took sessions for around three hours, once in every week. This was also the time when I moved from Delhi to Mumbai and the whole anxiety of moving to a new place was also curbed by hanging out with these dogs. The experience is very refreshing because they are going to be honest with you and shower you with unconditional love,” adds the 25-year-old.  

“Eventually, I started feeling more secure. Knowing that they will never pretend in front of me and that they don’t believe in the barter system of giving back to those people who have helped you, made me feel very calm. Moreover, the reason people suffer from anxieties is mostly because of other people. Animals are a lot more accommodating to people, their emotions and actions. It’s a very pure connection that one shares with animals,” says Aanchal candidly.

According to psychologists, pet therapy helps people distract from their mood swings and tensions. “Pets act like active distracters and ensure that people get into their routine. One has to nurture pets, feed them and take them out in the open. So, it’s a nice way to try overcoming repeated anxieties,” says Dr. Kamna Chhibber, clinical psychologist, Fortis La Femme.

“Pet therapy is like an adjunct to conventional therapy that we do. A mental disorder like depression can be treated by medical intervention and the therapy, simultaneously. It acts as an added advantage,” says Dr. Kamna.

Tags: dogs, it industry, symbiosis law school, fur ball story