Pets to the Rescue: Therapy and Service Animals Help With Depression and Anxiety

Animals have the ability to sense when their humans aren’t feeling well. When Mount Mary University English grad student Claire Neri is depressed, her therapy cat Nimbus is there to comfort her.

“With her, I’m just calmer to begin with,” Neri said. “Her purrs calm me down tremendously.”

Nimbus is certified as an emotional support animal. This certification doesn’t require training, but gives therapy animals the ability to live in places they may not usually be allowed in order to help their human feel better.

“Most people assume ‘therapy pet’ means that a pet has to DO something,” Neri said.

Nimbus helps Neri feel better not with a trained action, but just by being there and being a cat.

“She’s pretty good at sensing when I need her to cuddle up,” Neri said. “When my dad died last month, there really wasn’t a time she wasn’t on top of me. She would knead me and purr constantly when I tried to sleep.”

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While therapy animals help people by just being there, service animals help their humans feel better through a trained action.

Krysta Bywaters, a sophomore at UW-Parkside, has a service dog named Olive. Olive is trained to help Bywaters during depressive episodes through deep pressure therapy.

“She applies the pressure of her body against me,” Bywaters said.

Having Olive has led to significant improvement for Bywaters.

“I’ve had multiple tell me they’ve noticed a change in my demeanor, that I always seem happier when I’m with her,” Bywaters said. “ I’m less afraid to go out into the world when I have her by my side.”

Getting through the day can be challenging for someone with depression if they have to deal with work, school, and other daily things. Bywaters said that having Olive helps her get through the day when it might seem impossible.

“At the end of the day, I have someone who doesn’t judge me for my mistakes and who sees me as her whole world, and that helps me get through every day,” Bywaters said.


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