March 2013 Archives

Seeing Eye Pony

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Donkeys and Ducks and Dogs, Oh My!

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The mission of Young's Funny Farm in Pennsylvania is simply, "We Bring Smiles." The farm is home to a wide variety of animals including therapy dogs, ducks, horses, and donkeys. According to their website, Young's Funny Farm currently has 12 therapy animals and visits a wide variety of settings including hospitals, nursing homes, special needs centers, schools, church programs, camps and community events for animal assisted therapies and animal assisted activities.

There are six therapy ducks including one named "Afro" who has a hairstyle that would make anyone feel better just by looking at it. And the farm's recently deceased therapy dog Timmy was one of the few dogs assigned to work in the Family Assistance Center at Ground Zero in New York City after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Check out the Young's Funny Farm website for more information and pictures of their animals in action!

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Nine-year Socrates

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Here is a nine year old waxing about the meaning of the Universe - something utterly innocent is occurring here when a child is given permission to think out loud - profoundly simple and yet so eloquent


Animal-Assisted Interactions


In keeping with the theme of the previous blog postings for the week, I wanted to post a video of animal-assisted therapy that utilizes animals other than dogs. The quality is not the greatest.

Here is one of a therapy duck:

Also, I was curious about the historical uses of animals within different medical facilities and stumbled upon these pictures taken by Francis Miller for Life Magazine in the 1950's. I was unable to find any other information about the use of animals within this hospital, but I thought the pictures were great! More images from this facility can be found Life photo archive hosted by

Francis Miller Life Michigan US September 1956.jpg

Miller, F. "Animal therapy Michigan Hospital". Photo. Sept. 1956. Retrieved 31 March 2013.

Creature Comforts

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This article is for you Mageen - it is all about the "other" special animals that bring healing to people

Creature Comforts

Here is another one featuring our very own Tanya Bailey and her therapy chicken 'Woodstock'

Animal Magetism

The Nature Heals Conference

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Hi all,
I got to meet Jeannie in person(an experience I'd highly recommend) at the conference at the arboretum a couple weeks back, and she asked if I'd post my impressions here. Though I only saw the last half, it was a wonderful experience. I was struck by the enthusiasm- the event was filled, and it was easy to feel how excited people were about the subject matter. There is definitely a real world interest in what we've been studying online! I struck up conversations with people sitting on either side of me and had lunch with a group of women I'd never met and felt right at home, everyone had interesting stories to tell about why they had come. I'm often sort of a quiet person so I think it says a lot about the event and how much camaraderie it fostered. I especially enjoyed the Theater for Public Policy who ad-libbed skits from an interview with Meg Olmert. They had a lot of fun with the oxytocin studies!
I noted that the arboretum hosts quite a few classes, and also that the annual horticultural therapy convention will be in Minneapolis this September if anyone is interested in that. Also, the arboretum is simply a lovely place to be.

Alpaca-assisted Interactions


The quality of this video is not amazing, for which I apologize, but I liked it because I like alpacas! I also am the type of person who likes the smell of a farm which, as my Los Angeleno husband likes to point out to me, is the smell of poo. However, if you wanted to please me, you'd let me pet a dog. If you REALLY wanted to rock my world, however, you'd find me a cow or a goat alpaca!! My point is that dogs are really great, but I see them all the time, and kind of take them for granted, wonderful friends as they are. However, if you needed a technique to really get my attention, focus me, or even interest me outside of my normal routine, an alpaca would do the trick. So the research question that I pulled out of the topic's readings, and that naturally occurs to me when thinking about me and mine and the opportunities for integrating animal assisted therapy is not really ground-breaking - I wonder about how the effects would vary when using different kinds of animals, and, as another step, if the setting for the interaction matters. I say this because dogs can go all kinds of wonderful places that alpaca can't - I saw information on dogs in hospitals, assisted living homes, and so on - and that would be awkward for a farm animal, to say the least. On the other hand, I could see how the process of removing someone out of their natural setting and going on an adventure could be really great as a dimension of therapy - I know that my kids, for a close-to-home example, are far more functional human beings after some novel fresh air. It seems like that could either be a complicating feature, or a very helpful feature. So I guess that's a two-pronged research question, but there you have it!

Wind map

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A beautiful way to see the wind. (I had to share it because it's so neat) (Scroll down and click on the you tube Wind Map video).
"Seeing Only Wind Gods Get To See"

Angela Kariniemi Animal Assisted Interactions

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Hi everyone,
Our readings on Animal Assisted Interactions focus on the different ways that animals can benefit humans. But what can we do to make our pets (dogs in this case) happy? Playing a few tracks from the canine music album created and tested for dogs might do the trick. You can listen to a few of the tracks and test them out on your dog at this website. Happy listening! "Pet Sounds: Album targets music loving dogs".

Green Chimneys

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As I was trying to find a topic to write about for this blog I came across Green Chimneys. Green Chimneys is a non-profit organization that uses animal assisted interventions to help children and families with emotional, behavioral, social and learning challenges. I think this organization could be used as a good connection for our case study Steven. They help a wide variety of people and they use a wide variety of animals. I also found this very touching video of the founders on YouTube.

A special therapy dog

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I have been witness to the changes in people when they interact with therapy dogs, with my experience in a psychiatric unit. People who are depressed, begin to smile and interact with the dog and others. People who are anxious, visibly relax.

This is a video of a therapy dog working in a palliative care unit where the patients are at the end of their lives. What is particularly special about this, is Baxter, the dog, is also at the end of his life. There seems to be a connection the people make with him as a dog and also experiencing some of the loss they have. He is unable to walk, so is wheeled around, similar to many people at the end of their lives.

When you watch the clip, you can see the joy and ease on the faces of the people he is put into bed with.

Note: If you tear up easily,be prepared as it is incredibly touching

I thought some of you might be interested in two things that happened at Monday's 2nd Anniversary of the Tohoku Earthquake and tsunami that I coordinated at the University of Minnesota with the student group NDJ, and the Saint-Paul Nagasaki Sister City Committee, of which I am a former board member.

The first is the Japanese singing group Mu Min, sang a lovely song about blooming flowers of hope. You can see a version of it below.

The second is that we had an update from JETRO Office in Chicago about the current conditions in the Tonoku area. One of the interesting things I learned is that they are providing robotic animal-assisted interactions. Thousands of people are still displaced and living in shelters, where they do not allow pets. The Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Chicago donated numerous PAROs to the evacuation centers.


Gardens During Wartime



Here is a link to an interesting story from National Public Radio about Kenneth Helphand's book Defiant Gardens: Making Gardens in Wartime.

Although the creation of gardens during wartime does not generally occur within the direct context of Therapeutic Horticulture (TH), I find it fascinating that people have for centuries created gardens as a means of survivial, both for food and comfort. The prevalence of gardens in areas of conflict suggests that people are aware of the therapeutic significance of gardens even if they are not implemented within a structured framework As Helphand states in his book, "Gardens are inherently optimistic, The gardener has faith that what is planted will grow" (p. 224). The growth that occurs in gardens signals that things can change and gives us reason to have hope.

The top image is of World War I soldiers alongside the gardens which they had planted in the trenches.

The bottom image is Brook Turner with his 'lawn' in Iraq, which he planted as a comforting reminder of home.
(images taken from

Helphand, K. I. (2006). Defiant gardens: Making gardens in wartime. San Antonio, TX: Trinity University Press.

Levine, K. 2006. Tending 'defiant gardens' during wartime. Morning Edition. Washington, D.C. National Public Radio

Gardens During Wartime

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Here is a link to an interesting story from National Public Radio about Kenneth Helphand's book Defiant Gardens: Making Gardens in Wartime.

Although the creation of gardens during wartime does not generally occur within the context of Therapeutic Horticulture, I find it fascinating that people have for centuries created gardens as a means of survivial, both for food and comfort. As Helphand states in his book, "Gardens are inherently optimistic, The gardener has faith that what is planted will grow" (p. 224). The growth that occurs in gardens signals that things can change and gives us reason to have hope.

I particularly like the photo of the soldier in Iraq with his patch of lawn.

Dogs like music too!

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My dog and I hang out together a lot. We go to the park, play in the house, and generally cause happiness and chaos when we can. However, I've never had a dog that sang or howled with me, although I've tried many times with all dogs I've had in my life. When listening to the radio with him, he doesn't seem to care about the music. I was especially happy, then when I saw this video of a dog happily watching his human play guitar. Has anyone else seen something like this? The dog smiles and bops his little head to the beat. I don't play guitar and don't have room in my house for a piano so I've never been able to play for my pooch. I'd like to think, though, that he'd be as happy with me for my entertainment as I am with him for all of his silliness. I bet both the man and dog in this video were feeling good about their interaction.

Therapeutic Horticulture at Ohio Veterans Home

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I thought I would share this video because it goes into some visual detail of what we have been reading about on therapeutic horticulture. I also thought it was very heart warming to hear how much the veterans enjoyed the gardens. Hearing them talk about the flowers blossom and the tomatoes and cucumbers grow...was simply amazing! Such a simple and natural thing can break barriers.

Last year, I had the opportunity to visit inside the FMC, Rochester, MN, which is a part of the Bureau of Prisons, Department of Justice, housing federal offenders with mental health needs. This is a document about job opportunities at the FMC, which features a section on the horticulture program:

While I was there, I was impressed at how beautiful the grounds were. Even in winter, the manicured lawns and clearly cherished trees looked like a college campus, at the least. While touring the facility, I had an opportunity to observe several different sessions of treatment that combined therapy and skill-building for life after release. I didn't talk to any of the individuals involved in the horticulture program, because they were totally uninterruptable. They were sitting in a greenhouse attachment (it was March, and fairly inclement weather), discussing a book with a new technique in it, talking about whether or not they wanted to try growing that kind of plant this year. There was a therapist present, although the gardener seemed to be the one facilitating that particular discussion.

I later spoke with the therapist, and she told me that there was a lot of controversy over the program. Apparently, the program walked a fine line of violating laws about using prisoners as a workforce. Because they could grow food in the garden, it was considered slave labor, as prisoners are not supposed to be forced to farm, a law dating back to prison reform earlier in the 20th century. And yet, with this tension, it was hard to justify the program as therapeutic, and not forced labor. Finally, it was passed through as a job skill-building program, so that offenders would have a chance at employment once released, however, the therapist confided that the program did the most good as a therapeutic tool in an unconventional population. Going forward, I would be curious to attempt to quantify the benefits that she told me about, in order to begin to grapple with the policy implications of horticulture therapy as an aspect of life at the FMC. I immediately had the urge to "prove" that the program was beneficial to the population in such a way that it would be above the challenges to its legality, legitimized as therapy to the point where it wouldn't be confused with illegal labor.

Therapeutic Horticulture Angela Kariniemi

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Hello everyone,
Monet is famous for is beautiful garden paintings which I think capture some of the essence of what makes gardening and therapeutic horticulture special.
This is his Blue Water Lilies, 1919 taken from
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Therapeutic horticulture in Wisconsin

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I was curious about any "official" therapeutic horticulture in my community. I use the term "official" to differentiate between an organized program and that which is informal. I was discussing the topic with my sister-in-law, an avid gardener. When I described therapeutic horticulture she said, "Oh, we do that all the time!"

I didn't find any official theraperutic horticulture in my community, but there are places in Wisconsin. A very interesting site is at

The first segment has a link to guide you to a discussion with the "Wisconsin Gardener" regarding the definition of therapeutic horticulture, but it leads you to a cooking segment. The link to the discussion can be found @

However, the UW Extension site has several excellent examples of therapeutic horticulture including these stories:
1. Gardening is therapy for juvenile detainees
2. Therapeutic gardening helps residents with dementia
3. Local vets find solace in horticultural therapy
4. Green work: an innovative integrated employment training program for adults with cognitive disabilities.

It also has a list of Wisconsin programs which will prompt more investigation on my part.

Horticultural therapy in the twin cities

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Hey guys did you know there's a great organization in Hugo MN that does therapeutic horticultural with at risk Native American youth? It's called Dream of Wild Health. The kids do the gardening and sell their produce in the local farmer's markets. They also sponsor a seed bank, grow traditional native healing plants, and run other camp activities like art and archery. It started just a few years ago and has grown quickly into a successful organization. Here's a link to their website:

Weed Out Hate - A Twist on Therapeutic Horticulture?

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Much of the research surrounding therapeutic horticulture focuses on the connection between the emerging field and its larger application and possibilities within the structured world of medicine.

Those practicing within therapeutic horticulture are actively moving to validate their work in the eyes of western medicine. This movement is carried forward by practices such as accreditation, licensing, research, and publication. While the movement to make therapeutic horticulture a "valid" medical therapy is important, it's also important to not forgo the more broad-based appeal and accessibility that is inherent in this practice.

The Weed Out Hate campaign is a great example of the basic concepts of therapeutic horticulture being applied in a more broad-based manner. The global campaign uses gardening as a way to teach children to root out hate while planting seeds of peace, love and respect. The physical act of pulling weeds out of the ground and planting sunflower seeds in their place is used as tangible symbolism for showing kids the importance of pulling weeds of hate and anger out of their own lives and planting seeds of promise for a better tomorrow. While this obviously wouldn't fit a "medical" description for therapy, I can't imagine any greater way to apply the basic concept of therapeutic horticulture.

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TH and Kids

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I found this great YouTube channel called "Practicing Horticulture with Children". It got me thinking about how great of an idea it is, especially since most children these days do not spend enough time outside. After reading "Last Child in the Woods" and learning about nature deficit disorder a couple years ago, it saddened me immensely to realize how much children are missing out on these days. I spent SO much time outside in my forest when I was a little kid. I can't picture my childhood any other way. Therefore, I really hope therapeutic horticulture reaches a lot of kids, especially those in need of a little nature.

Theraputic Horticulture


Therapeutic horticulture gives people a sense of control and comfort. From what I can tell, it is partially because the brain can recognize certain patterns and repetition, which is easily and presently found in nature. Pattern is a system that is based in memory (Think of how children can pick up on memory/matching games with flashcards), and can help with healing processes of the mind. Pattern is also something that has been present in every culture, yet unique to each one. Here is an amazing experiment done with sand, and the vibrations of sound (this process is called Cymatics, a brief summary can be found here). The patterns correlate with so many things and nature, and a vivid reminder of how everything is so interconnected. Some of these patterns of sand can be seen on the shells of tortoise,and follow the rules of the golden ratio.
Be sure to turn the sound down before you watch the video...Some of the sounds can be really loud!!


Dallas Arboretum

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Before last week I thought I understood what therapeutic horticulture meant, but as we learned more about therapeutic horticulture and landscape I realized that I was grouping these two topics together. After last weeks readings I realized that I did not truly know what therapeutic horticulture is. I did a little research and I found that the Dallas Arboretum offered a pretty extensive therapeutic horticulture program.

Not only does the arboretum offer programs at their location, but they are willing to travel to different locations to offer on the go programs. It seems like many of their programs are arts and crafts related. Also I think their slogan is very related to our class "let nature nurture you." From what I understood from the website it appears that therapeutic horticulture is engaging people in hands-on activities related to horticulture products.

Therapeutic Horticulture for Veterans


I found a short video that interviews some veterans who are involved in TH and discusses what TH does for them.

I do not know of any TH that is available in the area where I live, nor where I grew up. Has anyone seen or been involved with TH in their communities? I would love to see something like this at the VA Center here!

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