October 10, 2003

Group Shows Creature Comforts

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Since most Cornell students reside in dorms or apartments where pets are prohibited, they often forget how cute and fuzzy animals can be. Members of Cornell Companions, a pet visitation program organized by veterinary students, undergraduates and Ithaca residents, visit children with disabilities, nursing homes, hospitals and juvenile correctional facilities in order to offer the benefits provided by interaction with animals.

Nona Ikeda ’05, Cornell Companions project coordinator, paraphrased C.C.’s mission: “The purpose of Cornell Companions is to bring animal-assisted activities to the Ithaca community and to provide a service where students can get involved in witnessing the animal-human bond.”

The organization operates on the belief that animals can provide benefits for people who are sick, elderly or otherwise in need of companionship. Ikeda explained the diverse array of animals that people respond to.

“Dogs especially make really great companion animals, but we do have many unusual animals such as rabbits, hamsters and mice,” said Ikeda.

Ikeda added that C.C. has access to llamas and camels for larger-scale outdoor activities.

C.C. plans events that encourage the entire Cornell community and Ithaca at large to learn about animal-human bonding, such as hosting a speaker who specializes in the topic.

Last year, they organized the K-9 K, a walk around the Cornell Plantations for pets and their owners, in order to raise funds for animal-related charities. C.C. hopes to make the K-9 K an annual event.

Yesterday, members of C.C. visited the health center at Kendal at Ithaca, a local retirement community. They were welcomed by staff members and residents alike.

“I think interacting with the residents and the pets and the volunteers is a very positive experience for all involved,” said Maria Giampolo, activities director for the health center at Kendal. “For some residents, having the pets come and visit brings back lots of memories and lots of experiences.”

In fact, residents make no secret of their joy when they see the animals and volunteers enter the facility.

“I like it enormously. I would like to have a cat of my own, but the idea of the responsibility is sort of daunting, so I really appreciate having animals brought in,” remarked Kendal resident Edwina Devereux while petting a pug named Winston.

Winston’s owner, Darlene Campbell grad, is the team leader for C.C.’s visits to Kendal at Ithaca. She supervises several students and community members who either bring their animals or offer a friendly face to the program. All C.C. volunteers undergo training to learn how to maximize the benefits of human-animal interactions.

Animal and human volunteers are what keep C.C. alive, and their frequent visits to local retirement facilities, hospitals and juvenile detention centers week after week are key in maintaining morale within such establishments.

Archived article by Andrew Beckwith