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Natural Awakenings Naples and Fort Myers

The Brody Project: Animal Assisted Therapy Provides Powerful Benefits

Dec 31, 2010 06:27AM ● By Linda Sechrist

Harnessing the human-animal bond and its therapeutic applications is a passion that energizes, excites and inspires Karen Lasker, director of The Brody Project for Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT). Her interest in the idea of improving human health through the assistance of therapy animals began in 2009 with a simple request. “An acquaintance, Paula Brody, asked me if I would locate a dog to take to a nursing home where her mother, Mrs. Sara Brody, was living,” says Lasker. “The reason for Paula’s request was that the only remaining thing that brought pleasure to her mother, a lifelong animal lover, was being around a dog.”

For four years, Lasker was blessed with the gift of observing how the human-animal bond encouraged improvements in Mrs. Brody. “She spoke more, her mood improved and she became more willing to be social and physically active,” notes Lasker, who borrowed six different dogs from friends to take along on visits. Says Lasker, “Mrs. Brody responded especially well to her favorites—Henri, a miniature poodle, and Charlie, a golden retriever. She was always more engaged when a dog was present.”

Lasker was fascinated by the results of her hands-on experience and the nurturing power of the human-animal bond. Encouraged by Paula, she decided to further her education in order to assist others. “It was easy to transfer the communication and relationship-building skills from my 25 years in human service work,” recalls Lasker, who is now a graduate of the Animal Behavior Institute and serves as a board member.

Near the end of Mrs. Brody’s life, Lasker was visiting several times a week. “Those were some of the only times when she opened her eyes and spoke,” she advises. Upon Mrs. Brody’s death, Paula founded The Brody Project for Animal Assisted Therapy, in honor of her mother and to give others an opportunity to receive AAT, a goal-directed intervention that differs from programs involving assistance, service or companion dogs. In AAT, an animal that meets specific criteria is an integral part of a treatment process directed and/or delivered by a health and/or human service professional with specialized expertise that is within the scope of practice of their profession.

AAT is designed to promote improvement in human physical abilities, social skills, psychological well-being and cognitive function. According to Lasker, therapy participants are more motivated to participate in rehabilitation services; they become more attentive to their treatment and accomplish more set goals. Benefits of AAT include increased cognitive function and reduced loneliness and depression. Fine motor skills are enhanced through simple tasks such as buckling a collar on and off and brushing a therapy animal’s coat.

“Medical research shows that interaction with companion animals provides visual, auditory, olfactory and tactile stimulation, which demonstrates some of the reasons that the human-animal bond helps people; physically, cognitively, emotionally and socially,” Lasker explains. Through The Brody Project for Animal Assisted Therapy, this special connection is nurtured and encouraged, offering therapeutic benefits.

The Brody Project for Animal Assisted Therapy is presenting “America’s favorite veterinarian,” Marty Becker, DVM, on January 16, at their annual fundraiser that supports their mission to provide education about the human-animal bond. Becker will discuss The Healing Power of Pets. For more information, contact Karen Lasker at 239-325-9328 or visit

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