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Pets can provide more than companionship

March 3, 2014 - Jenny Rukenbrod
Yearly observances are scheduled by various groups and organizations to increase awareness on a variety of topics. February saw "Women go Red" for Heart disease and in October, the color pink will permeate everything from cosmetics to football teams in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. In a community where people and pets are connected, March will bring awareness to a very important group of individuals. Superintendent of the Columbiana County Board of Developmental Disabilities (CCBDD) Bill Devon states on the CBDD website, "During Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, we encourage people to learn more about the people in this community who have developmental disabilities and to recognize that all of us have talents and abilities that we can offer to make Columbiana County a better place to live." The theme for the month, "Ability at Work" is meant to encourage the public "to understand that when people with disabilities are welcomed into neighborhoods, workplaces, schools and churches, everyone wins." A variety of activities are planned throughout the community during March, including a "Client vs. Staff" basketball game at David Anderson High School in Lisbon on the 26th. You might ask what DD Awareness Month has to do with pets. Well, to one person with disabilities, it may mean nothing. But to another person with disabilities, a pet may be priceless. Most of us have seen or heard about the importance of Guide Dogs for the blind. In the United State, thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act, no business, government agency, or other organization that provides access to the general public, can deny access for an assistance animal. Independence is the gift this âpetã gives to a person with a lack of eyesight. Interacting with dogs and other species of animals is common today and brings many physical, mental and social benefits to people with developmental disabilities.  Providing for the health of humans through animal interactions dates back many centuries. Horseback riding is mentioned throughout history as a cure for various sicknesses including gout, neurological disorders and depression. Today, therapeutic riding produces not only physical benefits such as respiration and both sensory and muscle stimulation, but also promotes social, scholastic and psychological development. The scope of this topic is far too broad and exciting for this brief column. I have not even touched on the impact a pet with physical disability can have on a physically disabled human. But, suffice it to say that an understanding and mutual empathy occurs that defies words. To witness this connection, watch the award winning documentary called "A Boy and His Dog" by Alex Crampton. Your heart will understand what your brain is unable to comprehend. Mr. Devon, whom I know personally, is a proud animal lover.  He and I share the same hope when it comes to raising awareness and increasing peopleás willingness to embrace what they may not understand. In a community where people and pets are connected recognizing the importance of relationships between people, with or without disabilities, and the pets they love, can make Columbiana County and the world, a better place to live.


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