Pet Therapy

Parkside’s therapists are caring and compassionate...and sometimes have four legs and a wagging tail.

At Parkside, animal assisted therapy, or “pet therapy” is utilized in all inpatient treatment areas. Numerous health care studies indicate that regular contact with a pet reduces stress and contributes to a general feeling of well-being. Some studies even suggest that pets have the ability to heal emotional and physical ailments. We know the animals at Parkside provide emotional comfort and encourage a positive state of mind. We see the pets ease discomfort and pain through their affection, play and presence. Very often the animals help adolescents express feelings they haven’t been able to share through other means. In addition, we believe contact with animals develops nurturing behavior in children who may grow to be more nurturing adults.

Pet therapy at Parkside is more than just a visit from a staff member’s dog. Most of the pets utilized live right here on campus. The variety of animals used surprises many people. Certainly the “warm and fuzzy” pets like dogs and a cat play their part, but the program also includes reptiles, a trained fish, tortoises and more. Some of the pets are physically disabled, some are specially trained, and all are helpful in their own ways. Every animal in the program has been carefully vetted for safety, health and their ability to interact with people.

The program is overseen by a Licensed Professional Counselor, who is also certified in Animal Assisted Therapy by the Animal Behavior Institute and who is the only person in Oklahoma with these unique qualifications!

Meet some of Parkside's animal associates:

Wrigley - African Pygmy Hedgehog

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Wrigley is a very smart girl and learns quickly.  She is nocturnal, so she likes to sleep in the day and be active at night.  She has learned that when the therapist comes to her cage and removes the little igloo shelter she sleeps in, that it is time to go to work.  She enjoys helping patients who have a fear of new things, and can teach about being patient.  She loves it when the patients feed her wax worms.  Who wouldn't?  The patients laugh and have said her feeding feels like a vacuum cleaner.

Pepper - Bunny

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Pepper the bunny is well-suited to help people who struggle with panic attacks or anxiety.  She is comforting and, like most rabbits, she knows about anxiety response.  One of Pepper's favorite treats is a strawberry.  She doesn't get them often, but when she does, her eyes brighten and she may even smile.

Barley - Mini Lop Bunny

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Barley is a "mini lop bunny" who is very gentle and loves his time with people.  He seems to calm people just by touching him.  He likes to work with younger patients on learning about boundaries and being patient and gentle.  One of his behaviors is to sleep with his eyes open.  He has suprised a few people when he wakes up!

Harper - Lion Head Rabbit

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Harper is a female lion-head rabbit.  Her face is always gentle and she is a natural snuggler.   She loves her time with her patients and enjoys being held.  If a group of people is circled around her, she will run and jump and come to visit every one of them.

Danni - Red-eared slider turtle

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Danni is a red eared slider turtle who has spent time in residence on both the children's residential and the adolescent residential treatment units.  She appears to be a listener, and that can help people feel comfortable sharing about themselves.  She is naturally an aquatic turtle, but she does just fine coming out of the water to visit with a therapy group.

Jen and Eric - twins

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Jen and Eric were given to the pet therapy program when their first keeper could no longer care for them.  They are not young, they may be in their 40's!   They are active and they are very observant.  They both enjoy roaming about the common areas and visiting with patients.

Kobe - African Sulcatta Tortoise

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Kobe is the younger tortoise.  Myjusi is the larger tortoise, who unfortunately passed away in 2016. They are not related, but part of an adopted family here at Parkside.  They both have a story about being adoptees.  They had to get used to one another, which took some time, but now they can help with lessons about living in the same home without conflicts.  Their names are Swahili- Myjusi means "lizard or magician" and Kobe means "turtle."

Hettie - Ornate Box Turtle

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Hettie enjoys all the best things in life, like taking a warm bath and eating just about any kind of bugs or berries.  She is in her 40s and used to spend time traveling to elementary schools and joining a therapist on speaking engagements.  She retired for a while, but now has a second wind and is an active part of the pet therapy team.

Crispin - Three Toed Box Turtle

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Crispin has also traveled a bit in his life.  He has never been shy and he understands a little about being different;  he only has three toes on his back feet.  He has been bullied by his cohort, Hettie, who has nipped at him.  He has lessons to share about dealing with trauma, overcoming bad experience and forgiving.

Amos - Bearded Dragon

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Amos is a bearded dragon who is almost 6 years old.  He is happy most of the time, but he is also a survivor of abuse.  He only has three legs, but he is adaptable and has overcome any disability.  Amos knows it isn't all about good looks, but when you talk to him, his colors will intensify bright yellow and orange.  He is a good listener, and has helped in many family therapy sessions.

Turbo and Wheels - Snails

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Can snails be good in pet therapy?

These guys have a lot of uses in pet therapy.  As you see here, they remind us to eat our vegetables! These two have been used in snail races and some surprising lessons about the benefits of slime.  If you ever meet up with Turbo and Wheels, please don't tell them that their pet-therapist mom can't tell them apart.

When you need help call us, or just come by. Our team of Therapists in Tulsa, Oklahoma available for you 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. No matter what hour, you’ll find a compassionate mental health professional ready to listen.

Individuals in crisis may go directly to 1619 East 13th Street in Tulsa any time day or night.

For help, call anytime 918.588.8888