The goal of animal-assisted activities is helping a participants with social, emotional or cognitive functioning.
Goats offer non-judgmental affection and attention. Lainey Morse, founder and CEO of Goat Yoga (www.goatyoga.net), explains how the unique bond between caprine and human works. “It’s not really the training that makes a good therapy goat. It’s the love,” she says. “They will just always look at humans as a source of attention and love and want to give it back. It’s extremely helpful for people suffering from mental illness, autism, stress, or fighting a disease. Some of these people don’t do great with ‘talking therapy.’ When you get them around goats, they forget about their issues and just connect with the goats. This makes them calm, and it also makes them laugh and feel loved.” The entertaining nature of goats is among the qualities that make them excellent therapy animals. Their playfulness can bring people out of their shell, lift their spirits, and even lower blood pressure.
But the benefits go deeper than spirited antics. They offer companionship and unconditional love which can serve as a lifeline for those with little else to live for, such as those in prison, people fighting terminal illnesses, or anyone feeling hopeless.
“Therapy goats don’t need a bond with a human,” says Morse, “so when they walk right up to a person and start to snuggle, or climb on their laps, or lay on their mat — it makes that person feel so special. Their calm demeanor is helpful too. Even when they chew their cud, it’s something like a meditative state that’s oddly relaxing to be around. Goats are calm and in the present moment, and the humans can’t help but take on that energy. They’re also very funny and happy animals, so they make you laugh as well. The combination is a very therapeutic.”