The III Annual Conference on Animal Assisted Therapy in Almería came to a close on Sunday. There wasn’t a large turn out but the people there were all very enthusiastic about their programs and finding out more about other centers and ways that animals can help people in an urban environment. As I have mentioned before each group has its own philosophy and terminology, the important thing is that there is now a growing number of people interested in the way we can incorporate animals into our lives, especially those of the disabled. It mostly covered dogs, cats and horses, with a mixture of presentations on anything from service-dogs trained without food rewards to gooey dog-in-pound stories to hippotherapy to dolphin-therapy followed by a practical presentation from the Guardia Civil to demonstrate how dogs can help find anything from lost people to bombs and drugs, or even, apparently, counterfeit money. Go Rover!
Every day we find more ways in which animals can help us emotionally, physically and with chores we are unable to do because of an impairment of some kind. I was pleased, even though a little embarrassed, to be recognized and called from the audience to speak as the pioneer in this field here in Spain. I am not sure why Spain has been so slow in coming around to the idea since it has been so popular and beneficial in so many other countries for a very long time. My problem, with my center ANIMO, was that I started twenty years too early for Spain and they weren’t ready for the idea, they thought of me as some crazy American that wanted to put disabled people on horses or train dogs for deaf people or take animals into hospitals and residential homes for the elderly. The only program that was known and accepted was the ONCE dogs for the blind and even though they had tremendous backing and funding they were turning out very few dogs a year. If Mojácar had been a little more ahead of its time they would have realized that if we had gone with my plans twenty years ago we could have had one of the best and largest training facilities in Europe for all types of Animal Assisted Therapy which would have drawn a large international group for conferences and courses.
I mention all of this in my article on this blog called Mojácar’s Greed Cost them a Gold Mine. All in all I think it was a good conference and it let us all know what is happening in Almería in these fields, because there still seems to be a terrible lack of communication between groups or much level of practicality. At the end of the conference they didn’t even ask for people’s e-mails or names and addresses to contact them for the next event.