1. When it comes to being a therapy pet, Wasabi the tortoise is a pro.

Wasabi was recently certified by Therapy Pets Unlimited in Baltimore.


Image via Therapy Pets Unlimited, used with permission.

Sure, Wasabi looks like a rock, but she also is a rock to folks who are ill or who are alone who have access to her companionship.

Her owner, Lisa Chicarella, said to The Huffington Post: "She's not a goldfish in a shell. She is an intelligent animal. She can learn. She has and shows emotions."

As they say, "A therapy pet is born, not made."

This got me thinking. I'm used to seeing visions of adorable Labradors and golden retrievers when I think of therapy pets, and many therapy pets fit that mold.


Image via Therapy Pets Unlimited, used with permission.

These dogs in particular are bred to be friendly and stable, so it's no wonder they're so popular. Dewey-eyed puppies with hearts of gold are no stranger to the therapy pet world, but if Wasabi the tortoise could do it, I thought:

What other animals are out there, comforting us humans with their rock-solid temperaments?

Turns out, quite a few. Dogs have some serious therapy pet competition.

This is just a random image of llamas, but it's kind of soothing. Imaging hanging out with these guys! Image via Sheila Sund/Flickr.

2. You can be a buck-toothed and huggable llama and be a therapy pet.

Yep. There's a llama named Rojo that's been therapy certified. Her human, Lori Gregory, dresses Rojo up in flowers and hats, and they visit local hospitals near her hometown of Vancouver, Washington. As Kelly Schmidt of the Providence Children's Center in Oregon told CNN:

“[Rojo is] such a quiet, gentle, peaceful soul … it's like he really knows how special he is and how special the kids are. ... It's very a contagious spirit to have Rojo around because it's just so unusual."

3. You can be a super tiny mini horse.


On a scale of one to soothed, I'm feeling pretty soothed. Image via Pete Markham/Flickr.

From the website of Therapy Horses of the Gentle Carousel:

"From the children and first responders of Sandy Hook Elementary School / Newtown, CT to the tornado survivors of Moore, OK and child trafficking victims in Washington D.C. these little horses bring their special love where it is needed most."

4. You can be a pregnant dolphin!



In Key Largo, Florida, there's a facility called Island Dolphin Care created by Deena Hoagland, who was also a licensed clinical social worker. Her son, Joe, had a stroke after his third heart surgery. After she saw the incredible progress Joe made after he began swimming with dolphins at age 3, she founded Island Dolphin Care.

Here's just one review of a child named Jack's time with Squirt, pictured above:

"Island Dolphin Care was never a place where I expected Jack to start walking or talking. All we ever hoped for was for Jack to have fun. It wasn't always easy. I waited everyday to see if Jack's sensitivity to the coolness of the water, his allergies, his lack of sleep, his mood in general would affect his swim with Squirt every morning. However, each time we come back, Jack has more fun than the last time. His progress in and out of the water has improved more than I could imagine."

5. You can even be a pig. A big black potbellied pig named Buttercup.


Dramatization of Buttercup as a child. Look into its eyes. See love. Image via Marianne Perdomo/Flickr.

Lois Brady, a speech and language pathologist, was looking for a portable therapy animal who would also be good with the kids she worked with. She researched dogs first but then came upon a unique choice. A potbellied pig named Buttercup.

She told VetStreet:

“Many of our students have aggressive behaviors. A pig can definitely take a blow — and not turn around and want to attack."

And better yet, this pig is so novel, it's opening the minds of her students.

“Students love him because they have no preconceived notion of what a pig should be. He's so visually curious to them that they're immediately drawn to Buttercup. Kids who can't remember how to spell their own name remember everything about him, from where he sleeps to how many siblings he has."

Who knew all these animals have what it takes to be a therapy pet?

Now, don't get therapy pets confused with service animals. A therapy pet is an animal trained to provide comfort and support to people in need, particularly in times of grief, trauma and stress. A service animal is an animal trained to do tasks for a person with a disability. The fact is, the Americans With Disabilities Act only recognizes dogs and some mini horses as service animals. But therapy pets, as we see here, are all around us!

Looking at all of the animals in the animal kingdom that are there to offer a helping paw (or claw or hoof) is a great reminder that help is all around! And to never be afraid to ask for it.

And if it takes a tortoise, a llama, a mini horse, a dolphin, and a pig to give it, so be it.

True

From the time she was a little girl, Abby Recker loved helping people. Her parents kept her stocked up with first-aid supplies so she could spend hours playing with her dolls, making up stories of ballet injuries and carefully wrapping “broken” arms and legs.

Recker fondly describes her hometown of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, as a simple place where people are kind to one another. There’s even a term for it—“Iowa nice”—describing an overall sense of agreeableness and emotional trust shown by people who are otherwise strangers.

Abby | Heroes Behind the Masks presented by CeraVe www.youtube.com

Driven by passion and the encouragement of her parents, Recker attended nursing school, graduating just one year before the unthinkable happened: a global pandemic. One year into her career as an emergency and labor and delivery nurse, everything she thought she knew about the medical field got turned upside down. That period of time was tough on everyone, and Nurse Recker was no exception.

Keep Reading Show less
via Pexels

The Emperor of the Seas.

Imagine retiring early and spending the rest of your life on a cruise ship visiting exotic locations, meeting interesting people and eating delectable food. It sounds fantastic, but surely it’s a billionaire’s fantasy, right?

Not according to Angelyn Burk, 53, and her husband Richard. They’re living their best life hopping from ship to ship for around $44 a night each. The Burks have called cruise ships their home since May 2021 and have no plans to go back to their lives as landlubbers. Angelyn took her first cruise in 1992 and it changed her goals in life forever.

“Our original plan was to stay in different countries for a month at a time and eventually retire to cruise ships as we got older,” Angelyn told 7 News. But a few years back, Angelyn crunched the numbers and realized they could start much sooner than expected.

Keep Reading Show less
True

It takes a special type of person to become a nurse. The job requires a combination of energy, empathy, clear mind, oftentimes a strong stomach, and a cheerful attitude. And while people typically think of nursing in a clinical setting, some nurses are driven to work with the people that feel forgotten by society.

Keep Reading Show less

We're dancing along too.

Art can be a powerful unifier. With just the right lyric, image or word, great art can soften those hard lines that divide us, helping us to remember the immense value of human connection and compassion.

This is certainly the case with “Pasoori,” a Pakistani pop song that has not only become an international hit, it’s managed to bring the long divided peoples of India and Pakistan together in the name of love. Or at least in the name of good music.
Keep Reading Show less

Dr. Alicia Jeffrey-Thomas teaches you how to pee.

A pelvic floor doctor from Boston, Massachusetts, has caused a stir by explaining that something we all thought was good for our health can cause real problems. In a video that has more than 5.8 million views on TikTok, Dr. Alicia Jeffrey-Thomas says we shouldn’t go pee “just in case.”

How could this be? The moment we all learned to control our bladders we were also taught to pee before going on a car trip, sitting down to watch a movie or playing sports.

The doctor posted the video as a response to TikTok user Sidneyraz, who made a video urging people to go to the bathroom whenever they get the chance. Sidneyraz is known for posting videos about things he didn’t learn until his 30s. "If you think to yourself, 'I don't have to go,' go." SidneyRaz says in the video. It sounds like common sense but evidently, he was totally wrong, just like the rest of humanity.

Keep Reading Show less