10 Bizarre Helper Animals You Don’t See Every Day
We’ve all become used to seeing guide dogs and hearing dogs. In some places, people don’t even bat an eyelid at seeing a miniature horse helping out its owner. However, in recent years, the number of creatures assigned the title of “emotional support animal” (ESA) has exploded, and some are truly bizarre.
While we might be able to get our heads around the idea of a miniature guide horse sitting on the floor of an aircraft beside its owner, are we really ready to accept the idea of an emotional support turkey? In 2016, an image of Easter the turkey went viral after she was spotted on a Delta flight with her owner, Jodie Smalley. It raised all kinds of questions about what actually should qualify as a helper animal.
The debate brought a host of people out of the woodwork who claimed to have a raft of crazy creatures helping them with their physical and emotional problems. From tortoises and alpacas to iguanas and bearded dragons, there seems to be no end to the exotic and outlandish critters with which humans manage to bond.
It comes as no surprise then that airlines have recently been faced with an onslaught of people who have been demanding to take their increasingly weird helper animals aboard their flights—so much so, in fact, that this has led to a tightening of the regulations over the past few months about the species that fall under the guidelines.
10: Capuchin Monkeys
Who wouldn’t want a cute capuchin monkey helping with daily tasks? Some people with mobility problems have been given the chance to share their lives with one of these cute and cuddly creatures.
The Helping Hands: Monkey Helpers for the Disabled charity is dedicated to making life easier for those with spinal injuries or other physical issues that significantly affect their ability to live independently. The organization’s highly trained monkeys can help with all kinds of useful tasks—from operating remote controls and picking up dropped objects to scratching itches and turning pages.
Capuchins aren’t just skilled at performing dexterous tasks. They’re also brilliant at offering comfort and affection to their human companions. Their small size lets them snuggle up on their partners’ laps while their natural sense of hierarchy motivates them to look after their humans and be cared for in return.
The National Health Service in the UK has taken steps to use snakes to offer therapy to patients who have communication issues and depression. In London’s Huntercombe Hospital, therapists are currently using a corn snake called Angel as an integral part of group sessions. Angel is seven years old and measures 1.5 meters (5 ft) in length. During sessions, patients are encouraged to feed her, touch her, and take care of her.
Although this may sound bizarre, the hospital’s doctors have confirmed that patients who take part in these therapy sessions have shown improvements in their symptoms.
Apparently, Angel motivates those suffering from depression to get up in the mornings. Also, the sense of responsibility they gain from having to care for her gets them through the day. Angel and her fellow therapy snakes have proven to be especially helpful to male patients who feel uncomfortable caring for a cute and cuddly pet.
Angel isn’t the only snake serving as an ESA. Daniel Greene’s red-tailed boa constrictor, Redrock, has a very special job. Greene is epileptic and claims that his pet can warn him whenever he is about to have a seizure. This allows him to prepare or take medication to prevent it from happening.