Animals have always been a special part of my life. As long as I can remember, I was bringing home strays and injured animals. When I was five, I brought home a stray kitten. This was my first rescued animal. It wasn't until I became an actor, and then injured my spine, that I discovered that these animals were actually very therapeutic and helped me to cope with my chronic pain. I wanted to share with others what worked for me.
People may not realize the tremendous part that therapy/companion/comfort animals have in easing the suffering of those with PTSD and traumatic brain injury (TBI), particularly within the military. A large part of the despair associated with these conditions is a deep sense of uselessness and being a burden to family and friends. This brings on feelings of guilt, which intensify the sense of worthlessness, igniting a downward spiral. I know this from personal experience after I sustained a severe spinal injury in 1992. I myself sank into that abysmal pit of feeling utterly worthless, useless and burdensome. Caring for an animal, especially one that you rescue, can help return you to a sense of being needed and useful. In my case, it was nearly miraculous.
The relationship between human and animal is wholly symbiotic. It sounds simple, and it is. That is why it works so well. The person needs the animal for comfort and companionship, and the animal needs the love and caring of the human. It is a classic "win-win" situation: it's remarkably spiritually uplifting to both human and animal.