Local shelter using aroma therapy and reading to calm stressed out dogs

Most of us talk to our pets. They might not understand everything we say but just the sound of our voice lets them know they matter and they're loved. Some volunteers at the Montgomery County Animal Shelter are making hundreds of dogs feel that way by reading to them. 

"These animals are in this environment through no fault of their own," Lynn O’Sullivan said.

The reasons they ended up here are different. Some have heartbroken owners frantically searching for them.

Others had cold-hearted ones who dumped them here because they were sick, old or not so cute anymore. Whatever the reason, they all share something in common.

"It's probably the worst environment they will ever be in," Robbie Benson said.

It's hard to even imagine how dogs must feel when they first arrive at a shelter.

"A dog can go anywhere from happy to scared within 5 minutes of the stress of the shelter," Carlton said. And just like people, stress can damage a dog physically and mentally.

"The stress of this shelter lowers the ability of the animal to fight off what's present here," O’Sullivan said.

"We know that we can have a dramatic effect on their stress levels, and stress is what contributes number one to bad behavior," Benson said.

Robbie Benson took some tricks of the trade she learned in the salon and spa industry and began using them in an animal shelter in California.

"We have about a dozen programs within our behavior department," Benson said.

Lynn O’Sullivan spends 3 to 4 days a week reading to dogs. Before cracking open a book she sprays aroma therapy. What kind of book do you read to a dog?

“It doesn't matter. It really doesn’t matter. I read something i want to read," O’Sullivan said.

One time Benson forgot to bring a book, but she had just bought a new battery for her car.

"I read the battery warranty about a dozen times to the dogs and they all got as relaxed as they could be," Benson said.

Shelter employees say they see a dramatic difference in the dogs after they're read to.

"They all lay down. They're more calm. It just helps the environment in general," Matt said.

Volunteers are also using massage therapy on the dogs. They spray their hands with aroma therapy. Then volunteers speak softly to the dogs while gently stroking them.

"Ninety-nine percent of the time they're immediately relaxed and become like mush," O’Sullivan said.

Volunteers say they like taking part in the behavior modification program just as much as the dogs do.

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