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Pet Therapy, by Jeff and Jenny

I'm Jeff, and I'm wild about animals. From my own experience with cancer, I know that pets always make me smile, even on my toughest days. Now my sister Jenny and I want to know if pets can help other kids. Can holding a furry friend help lessen pain for kids who have to have a painful medical procedure?

What did we do?
Jenny and I invited Marley, a trained therapy dog, to help us. We went to the hospital where my mom works, and met with eight kids after they had a cancer procedure. We asked each kid to rate their pain on a face scale ranging from 0 (a happy face, and low pain) to 5 (a sad face, and high pain). Then half the kids relaxed for four minutes, and half the kids played with Marley for four minutes. We recorded their face scale pain rating again, and noted any changes.

What did we find out?
The "no dog group" had an average pain rating change of negative 1.2, meaning their pain decreased by about one face on the faces scale. The "dog group" averaged a change of negative 2.2, meaning their pain decreased by about two faces. That means the "dog kids'" average pain score dropped from a 3 ("hurts even more") to a 1 ("hurts a little bit). Cool! Seeing how playing with Marley helped reduce pain for these kids, I did more investigating with Marley. My investigation was selected for the top 40 finalists in the Discovery Young Scientists Challenge, and I won the Animal Planet's Emergency Vet special award!

What can you do?
  • Study how music affects people. Learn to take a person's pulse rate. Put headphones on your test subject, and take your subject's pulse rate with no music in the headphones, then play the first style of music through the headphones for a minute, and take the person's pulse rate again. Try several styles of music.
  • Collect pictures out of magazines or off the Internet of all kinds of different animals. Make up a faces scale which has these four faces: mad, sad, glad, scared. Get your friends to be test subjects. One person at a time, show each picture you collected, have them point to the face on the scale that best represents how they feel when they see that animal picture.
  • Use this life science investigation as a science fair project idea for your elementary or middle school science fair! Then tell us about it!
more resources
More on animals' senses.

Go to the DFTV Boards, and tell us about your science investigation.
whiz quiz
Orangutans are brachiators, meaning they can do what?

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