Puppy love: therapy pooches bring peace of mind at Spanish psychiatric center

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Therapy dogs bring peace of mind at psychiatric center
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Therapy dogs bring peace of mind at psychiatric center
Atila, a trained therapeutic greyhound used to treat patients with mental health issues and learning difficulties, falls asleep as it gets caressed by three patients at Benito Menni health facility in Elizondo, northern Spain, February 13, 2017. REUTERS/Susana Vera SEARCH "DOG THERAPY" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Andres Garcia, 29, embraces Argi, a trained therapeutic greyhound used to treat patients with mental health issues and learning difficulties, as he relaxes at Benito Menni health facility in Elizondo, northern Spain, February 13, 2017. REUTERS/Susana Vera SEARCH "DOG THERAPY" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
Inaki Gorriz (L), 24, kisses social worker Irune Alchu, 31, as Andres Garcia (C), 29, walks hand in hand with nurse Andre Carricaburu, 24, while going for a walk with "Argi" and "Atila", trained therapeutic greyhounds used to treat patients with mental health issues and learning difficulties, at Benito Menni health facility in Elizondo, northern Spain, February 13, 2017. REUTERS/Susana Vera SEARCH "DOG THERAPY" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
Argi and Atila, trained therapeutic greyhounds used to treat patients with mental health issues and learning difficulties, enter their home at Benito Menni health facility in Elizondo, northern Spain, February 13, 2017. REUTERS/Susana Vera SEARCH "DOG THERAPY" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
Argi, a trained therapeutic greyhound used to treat patients with mental health issues and learning difficulties, wears a coat made by patients as he waits to get something to eat at Benito Menni health facility in Elizondo, northern Spain, February 13, 2017. REUTERS/Susana Vera SEARCH "DOG THERAPY" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
David Villanueva, 44, reacts as he caresses Atila, a trained therapeutic greyhound used to treat patients with mental health issues and learning difficulties, in its bed at Benito Menni health facility in Elizondo, northern Spain, February 13, 2017. REUTERS/Susana Vera SEARCH "DOG THERAPY" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
Ramona Echeverria (L), 63, and Ion Albiz, 38, pet Atila, a trained therapeutic greyhound used to treat patients with mental health issues and learning difficulties, at Benito Menni health facility in Elizondo, northern Spain, February 13, 2017. REUTERS/Susana Vera SEARCH "DOG THERAPY" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
David Villanueva, 44, poses with Argi, a trained therapeutic greyhound used to treat patients with mental health issues and learning difficulties, at Benito Menni health facility in Elizondo, northern Spain, February 13, 2017. When asked what the greyhounds mean to him, he answered: "Care". REUTERS/Susana Vera SEARCH "DOG THERAPY" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
Andres Garcia, 29, poses with Argi, a trained therapeutic greyhound used to treat patients with mental health issues and learning difficulties, at Benito Menni health facility in Elizondo, northern Spain, February 13, 2017. When asked what the greyhounds mean to him, he answered: "Peace". REUTERS/Susana Vera SEARCH "DOG THERAPY" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
Miren Martinez, 49, pets Atila, a trained therapeutic greyhound used to treat patients with mental health issues and learning difficulties, at Benito Menni health facility in Elizondo, northern Spain, February 13, 2017. REUTERS/Susana Vera SEARCH "DOG THERAPY" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
Andres Garcia (L), 29, and Inaki Gorriz, 24, pet Atila, a trained therapeutic greyhound used to treat patients with mental health issues and learning difficulties, as their nurses and therapists look on at Benito Menni health facility in Elizondo, northern Spain, February 13, 2017. REUTERS/Susana Vera SEARCH "DOG THERAPY" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
Atila and Argi, trained therapeutic greyhounds used to treat patients with mental health issues and learning difficulties, try to get the attention of Ion Albiz, 38, at Benito Menni health facility in Elizondo, northern Spain, February 13, 2017. REUTERS/Susana Vera SEARCH "DOG THERAPY" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
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ELIZONDO, Spain, March 16 (Reuters) - Tucked away in Spain's Pyrenees mountains, patients at psychiatric facility Benito Menni stretch out across floor mats and stroke greyhound puppies Atila and Argi.

Puppy love is part of the treatment for conditions such as schizophrenia.

The facility, based in a town near the border with France, uses the dogs to help patients with intellectual disabilities and mental health conditions develop social skills and a sense of autonomy.

Alongside misty views of green rolling mountains, petting sessions with the eight-month-old puppies have a calming effect serving as an emotional outlet for patients who struggle to connect with others.

Playing with those who are more active and sitting still with those who find moving a daily challenge, the dogs tailor their behavior according to the needs of their patient.

Unlike other centers, Atila and Argi live on the grounds and are cared for by patients. "They are in charge of the dogs 24 hours a day," said head nurse of Benito Menni Uxua Lazkanotegi. "The dogs are now part of the center."

In an effort to promote good habits like self-control and personal hygiene, patients groom and feed their furry companions taking them for daily walks to the nearby village where the dogs are icebreakers facilitating conversation with the locals.

Center residents who struggle to express themselves because of a range of cognitive and behavioral disabilities referred to their feelings for the dogs using words like "calmness," "companionship" and "affection."

The dogs also work with those unable to feed or walk the animals, sitting with severe dementia patients in an effort to combat isolation and depression by stimulating their senses of touch.

Meet more pets who serve as therapy and support:

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Therapy and emotional support animals
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Therapy and emotional support animals
Prisoners participate in the therapy with dogs program in the prison of Santo Domingo de los Tsachilas, Ecuador, on October 21, 2014. The Social Rehabilitation Center of Santo Domingo employs nine trained dogs as therapy to reduce the prisoners stress and agressiveness levels. AFP PHOTO/RODRIGO BUENDIA (Photo credit should read RODRIGO BUENDIA/AFP/Getty Images)
BERLIN, GERMANY - AUGUST 06: Mogli lifts a paw to touch the palm of his owner Eva Kullmann as facility residents, who both suffer from dementia, look on during the cat's weekly visit at the Lutherstift senior care facility on August 6, 2014 in Berlin, Germany. Mrs. Kullmann says the weekly visits are vital therapy and spark the curiosity, communication and delight of the facility residents. Friday, August 8, is World Cat Day. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 30: Denver International Airport introduced the dogs in it's new Canine Airport Therapy Squad (CATS) program in the Jeppesen Terminal on Thursday, October 29, 2015. Maddison Tischler, a consultant working at the airport, goes face to face to greet therapy dog 'Nelson' a Newfoundland. 17 of the 28 dogs were on hand to meet and greet travelers and employees offering a little stress relief. They will roam the concourses mingling with travelers. (Photo by Cyrus McCrimmon/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
LAKEWOOD, CO - FEBRUARY 19: Nickolas McCauley, 7, pets a cat as he looks out the window during a therapy session at Animal Assisted Therapy Programs of Colorado in Lakewood, Colorado on February 19, 2015. Animal Assisted Therapy Programs of Colorado is a non-profit that offers therapy with a variety of animals including dogs, rats, rabbits, horses and goats. (Photo by Seth McConnell/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - JUNE 24 - Margo Mackay and her flat coated retriever 'Demi', June 24, 2015. Therapy dogs will be roaming the Pan Am village helping stressed athletes. (Andrew Francis Wallace/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
LAKEWOOD, CO - FEBRUARY 19: Nickolas McCauley, 7, gets puppy kisses from Saoirse during a therapy session at Animal Assisted Therapy Programs of Colorado in Lakewood, Colorado on February 19, 2015. Animal Assisted Therapy Programs of Colorado is a non-profit that offers therapy with a variety of animals including dogs, rats, rabbits, horses and goats. (Photo by Seth McConnell/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - DECEMBER 03: A therapy dog named Toby reacts as he is pet by a traveler inside Terminal 2 at San Francisco International Airport on December 3, 2013 in San Francisco, California. The San Francisco SPCA and San Francisco International Airport joined forces to launch a new program called 'Wag Brigade' that will have a team of certified therapy dogs that will patrol the airport's to help calm stressed travelers during the busy holiday travel season. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
MONUMENT, CO - JUNE 15: Black Forest fire evacuee, Ashlee Erick, 11, hugs therapy dog, Doophous at the front doors of Palmer Ridge High School after a community meeting Saturday morning, June 15, 2013. Erick's family home was destroyed in the fire. The Black Forest fire is 45% contained, but has claimed two lives and over 450 homes. (Photo By Andy Cross/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
Reportage on a zootherapy psychologist practising in the Ile-de-France region of France. Zootherapy session for a 10-year old boy suffering from Asperger syndrome. The session involves educational exercises and time with the animal. (Photo by: BSIP/UIG via Getty Images)
Elease Travis, right, pets Woody the dog, owned by Ursula Dams, left, at an adult day care facility in Melrose Park, Illinois, on August 5, 20111. Woody serves as a therapy dog for the seniors at the facility. (Keri Wiginton/Chicago Tribune/MCT via Getty Images)
Melanie Paul, who is deaf, and her pet therapy dogs, Molly, left, and Locksley visit hospital patients at Sentara Careplex in Hampton, Virginia, May 17, 2010. (Photo by Sangjib Min/Newport News Daily Press/MCT via Getty Images)
John Callahan, 82, gets a visit from Nika, the unofficial mascot and animal therapy dog at Bethesda Home and Retirement Center in Chicago, Illinois, March 30, 2010. (Photo by Michael Tercha/Chicago Tribune/MCT via Getty Images)
LAKEWOOD, CO - OCTOBER 07: Terminally ill patient Jackie Beattie, 83, touches a dove on October 7, 2009 while at the Hospice of Saint John in Lakewood, Colorado. The dove releases are part of an animal therapy program designed to increase happiness, decrease loneliness and calm terminally ill patients during the last stage of life. The non-profit hospice, which serves on average 200 people at a time, is the second oldest hospice in the United States. The hospice accepts patients regardless of their ability to pay, although most are covered by Medicare or Medicaid. End of life care has become a contentious issue in the current national debate on health care reform. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
TOKYO - OCTOBER 30: Sick children are given therapy with dogs in the children's ward of St Luke's Hospital on October 30, 2008 in Tokyo, Japan. Prince Charles, Prince of Wales and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall are in Japan as part of a ten day tour of East Asia that takes in Japan, Brunei and Indonesia. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 11: Max, 2, therapy dog visits the residents of The Hebrew Home at Riverdale at 5901 Palisade Avenue in the Bronx (Photo by Enid Alvarez/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
SMITHVILLE, NJ - UNDATED: Lucy with Great Dane dog in Smithville, New Jersey. At two and a half pounds, six inches long and just under six inches tall, Lucy is the smallest working dog in the world. Tiny pooch 'Lucy' has been named by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world's smallest working dog. The little Yorkshire terrier is just 5.7 inches high and weighs only two-and-a-half pounds. She was handed the certificate in recognition of her work as a therapy dog with the elderly and disabled. Age three and six inches long, Lucy works in a program called Leashes of Love and visits hospitals, nursing homes and special schools in Smithville, New Jersey. The title is awarded according to weight - meaning Lucy smashed the previous record held by a six pound search and rescue dog in Japan. Even though she weighs less then 12 sausages, she now has a huge status among working dogs around the world. She is owned by Sally Leone Montufar, 56, who put her forward for the record. PHOTOGRAPH BY HOWIE WILLIAMS/ Barcroft USA /Barcoft Media via Getty Images
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