09 January 2017

Camel Therapy

You thought cuddly puppies and fluffy kittens were effective pet therapy. In many situations such as for for the senile, the grieving, the terminally ill ... animals can be comforting. Therapy aside, it is thought that young children growing up with and caring for animals encourages kindness and responsibility.

Then there's the whole separate category of therapeutic riding that provides children and adults of different disabilities with the physical and mental benefits of outdoor recreational activity. Personal support often accompanies it to enhance social and communications skills.

My active, awesome, ageless sister-in-law operates such a Therapeutic Riding School.

But wait. You've heard of camel hair that makes beautiful, warm wool. We're becoming accustomed to live camels playing their part in nativity scenes around the world. What's new in health-conscious circles is the growing consumption of *** camel milk. As if that weren't enough exposure, this just into my inbox:


A new venture in suburban New York State, Green Chimneys Farm is using camels to assist "children challenged by anxiety, attention deficits, and difficulties with emotional regulation to develop and make connections between the camels’ behavior and their own."[1]

Green Chimneys Farm

Why camels??

Well, the farm will tell you three ways their Bactrian camels accomplish this (if I understand it correctly):
* Camels are exotic; their appearance and size captures attention;
* Camels are trained differently from other animals; their innate curiosity seeks social engagement and requires consistent interaction;
* Camels have emotional flexibility like humans, the occasional unpredictable mood; it's a two-way street between student and animal.

Therapists work with the children as well as the camel handlers in a safe environment. The farm itself, boasting an incredible variety of animals, is quite the going concern with a variety of speciality educational programs and professional staff in place.

No, I'm not a client or a shill. Nor do I have any idea of their satisfaction rate or how they measure it. It's not difficult to see how social skills and self-confidence of the children (the "students") would increase by bonding with the big animals. But what exactly is it they do with them? I'm still puzzled as to whether the camel sessions include riding the animals. Or is it a kind of camel whispering process? My questions keep coming. Why Bactrians? Do they or don't they have less stable temperaments than dromedaries?

Regardless. Along with camel-lovers world-wide, I have to agree with Guy Seeklus, owner of the new Camel Safari near Mesquite, Nevada: Compared to horses, camels are more affectionate, more intelligent and easier to train.”[2]

Can I convince my sister-in-law?

[1] 12 November 2016, Brewster's Hamlet Hub (http://news.hamlethub.com/brewster/places/3325-3-ways-camels-make-for-unusual-and-awesome-therapy-partners : accessed 3 December 2016).
[2] Denise Roch, 22 November 2016, "The Camel Whisperer," 3News (Las Vegas) (http://news3lv.com/news/local/tuesday-at-6-the-camel-whisperer : accessed 3 December 2016).

© 2016 Brenda Dougall Merriman

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