The bond Joanna Cooper and her cat, Dakota, have is undeniably strong. It’s Dakota’s unconditional love that’s kept Cooper going through addictions recovery and it started with her adoption from the SPCA.
“As soon as that crate door opened on top of the desk, she came straight for me and I picked her up with open loving arms and we’ve been together ever since,” Cooper recalled.
The benefits of pets have always been obvious for owners, but now there are statistics to back it up. Over 850 people responded to a national survey conducted by the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA) last year .
Of the 86 Saskatchewan residents who responded, 68.4 per cent identified their relationship with animals as an important support in recovery. Another 39.5 per cent believe it’s important to maintaining recovery and 91 per cent said their quality of life was either good, very good or excellent.
These numbers come as no surprise to Dr. Colleen Dell, who’s researching incorporating animal therapy into treatment and recovery at the University of Saskatchewan.
“A large finding in the recovery survey, people talked about barriers to their recovery and stigma was a large barrier,” said the research chair.
“Animals don’t judge, animals don’t care what kind of day you’re having so there’s an open to be with the unconditional love and support they receive from a pet.”
Dell has found that people feel loved by the therapy animals, based on a strong connection which is vital in recovery.
Cooper echos that sentiment.
“I would get really down on myself and there would be days where I thought, why am I here? It’s different when you have something to care for and also have a deep connection with,” Cooper said.