Canadian researcher Dr. Colleen Dell has spent the last decade studying the human-animal bond alongside her animal partners.
In this 53rd episode of Therapy Dog Talk, I chat with Dr. Colleen Dell, a Canadian researcher at the University of Saskatchewan and the Centennial Enhancement Chair in One Health & Wellness, about her work in the human-animal bond field. Dr. Dell has published numerous articles and even given a TEDx Talk on therapy dogs and recovering from addiction.
We discuss Dr. Dell’s unique approach to partnering with her animal colleagues, including Anna-belle, Kisbey, Subie, E-jay, and Molly. Dr. Dell shares how her background in community-based research and feminist methods has influenced the way she views and works with her animal partners, treating them as equals and giving them a voice in her research.
Throughout the conversation, we explore the various therapy dog programs Dr. Dell and her team are involved in, such as St. John’s Ambulance and the PAWSitive Support program at Drumheller Prison in Alberta. We also delve into the importance of connection in our lives, and how animals can play a significant role in our overall health and well-being.
Dr. Dell talks about the balance of quantitative and qualitative data in her research and the importance of respecting a dog’s personality when it comes to being a therapy dog. We also touch on the challenges of dealing with an animal’s medical needs and how to honor their memory when they pass away.
After listening to this episode, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of the human-animal bond, the joys and challenges of working with therapy dogs, and how you can use your unique skills to advance the field of Animal-Assisted Interventions.
In this episode, we discuss …
- How Colleen partners with her own animals in Therapy Dog initiatives.
- Why she views her animals as colleagues in her work.
- What opportunities exist for others to advance the field utilizing their own areas of expertise.
Key moments you won’t want to miss:
- [04:00] Colleen shares how she started researching the human-animal bond after years of studying addiction, mental health, criminalization, and prison systems.
- [06:25] Colleen talks about learning to share Anna-belle’s voice during her sabbatical, leading to an article with Anna-belle as the lead author.
- [08:10] We learn about the Therapy Dog programs Colleen and her team participate in, such as St. John’s Ambulance and the PAWSitive Support program at Drumheller Prison in Alberta.
- [11:48] She discusses therapy dogs at vaccination clinics and people’s reactions to their presence.
- [15:19] Colleen shares her experience when Anna-belle passed away, publishing her obituary to recognize her contributions to the community.
- [19:01] We talk about how animals help people process grief, using an example from Camp Widow with Therapy Dog Cocoa.
- [19:11] I mention how each person can use their unique skills to advance the field of Animal-Assisted Interventions, like Colleen’s research and a media-savvy handler who helped publish Anna-belle’s obituary.
- [20:49] Colleen discusses the balance of quantitative and qualitative data in her research and the role of ethics in measuring the human-animal bond.
- [23:12] Colleen expresses interest in researching the impact of the entire pet therapy team, rather than just the animal.
- [24:21] Her team will release a free Therapy Dog handler training on One Health Day (November 3, 2022), covering inclusivity, handler mental health, client mental health, and dog health and safety.
I hope you enjoy this episode as much as I do. Give it a watch or a listen and then let me know in the community which part you found the most helpful!
Mentioned in this episode:
- Behesa Doan at Extreme-K9
- Being an Informed Therapy Dog Handler (Free Course)
- Dr. Colleen Dell’s Website
- Dr. Darlene Chalmers
- Sarah & Cocoa’s experience volunteering at Camp Widow
- St. John’s Ambulance Therapy Dog Program
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