You have a visitor. For nursing home residents and hospital patients, those four words are enough to send a sublime chill of anticipation down the spine. That’s to say nothing of the spiritual healing and emotional reawakening the patients experience when the door opens and the four-legged therapist actually steps into the room.
In this aptly titled book, photographer Renee Lamm Esordi provides an inspiring, eye-opening visual account of her year spent shadowing animal-assisted therapy (AAT) volunteer teams as they visited nursing homes and hospital wards as well as special education and psychiatric programs. “I wanted to record moments shared between animals and people in unique and powerful situations,” explains Esordi,whose telling collection of black and white photos offers a close-up into the growing world of AAT.
More and more AAT teams are gaining admittance into health care facilities, and for good reason. Esordi’s documentary photos speak volumes on the physical and mental benefits of AAT and confirm what pet lovers have known all along: animals are good medicine.“During AAT visits,”says Esordi,“studies show a significant increase in confidence, self-esteem, motivation, and coordination, and a decrease in anxiety and blood pressure levels.” While that’s wonderful news,studies are best left to scientists. One need only look at these snapshots to realize that a picture taken by Esordi is worth a thousand studies.
Although Esordi has admirably stepped out from behind the safety of her viewfinder and written a narrative to accompany her photos,perhaps the solitary blemish on this otherwise aesthetic work is her failure to sufficiently elaborate on her privileged experience. Of an impromptu visit to a nursing home, she says: “The casual visit was unexpectedly emotional and had a considerable impact on me.”The reader is left hanging.What made the visit emotional? What considerable impact did it have on her?Little is offered beyond a cursory glimpse into the effect AAT had on both her and her subjects. A more substantive, detailed account of her findings would have certainly been welcomed. Nonetheless, the glimpse we are afforded provides the much-needed exposure to this underutilized supplemental treatment to traditional therapy. Esordi’s contribution to furthering public awareness is a valuable one.
Published by Blue Lamm Publishing.