In the United States, therapy and comfort dogs are used in various ways, from comforting travelers at airports, to helping children learn to read, to visiting sick and elderly individuals. Handlers can even earn a therapy dog title through the AKC.
In Singapore, such animal-assisted therapy is less common, but as seen in the relationship between Telly and Jarene shown in the video below, it’s just as beneficial.
Jarene, a 9-year-old, was born premature without the ability to swallow, reports Our Better World, an initiative of the Singapore International Foundation. Her condition also makes speaking difficult. But she shares a special bond with Telly, a Labrador Retriever, who was trained and certified in therapy work in the United States.
Telly is not a service dog—meaning she doesn’t complete any specific task for Jarene. When the two are together, they simply play and spend time bonding. Jarene’s mother, Sally, believes the friendship helps her daughter with social skills, communication, and confidence. "To see a dog that is so tolerant, it's very refreshing,” she says. “Human friends are not that tolerant."
Therapy dogs and animal-assisted therapy are somewhat rare in Singapore, Telly’s owner Maureen Huang told Mashable. Dog ownership is also less common: In 2016, the number of dogs licensed with the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority was only 62,000, compared with about 78 million pet dogs in the United States.
See Telly and Jarene below: