Alicia Martín Cruz and two of her three dogs, eight-year-old Lima and nine-year-old India, help children and adults in the Axarquía region to overcome difficulties with reading, writing, maths and general emotional development.
Schools and centres in both Rincón de la Victoria and Colmenar, as well as Malaga city, have benefited from the service that the trio provides.
Alicia, who has a Masters degree in animal assisted therapy, started her business, CanUman, five years ago. “Lima is a calmer dog so she helps with the indoor sessions, while India is a more agile and active dog, so she helps out with games and mobility,” she says.
The therapist explains that it is scientifically proven that when a child is with an animal, the child is more relaxed and more likely to be interested in reading.
It reduces stress and lowers the heart rate. “Learning to read tends to be stressful for children and when we play games with Lima they are more relaxed and motivated. “I tell them a story and she forms part of it,” Alicia says.
The Virgen de la Candelaria primary school in Colmenar and a residence for elderly people in Rincón de la Victoria have reported great success and improvements in the children’s and residents’ development respectively, as has the Caracola school in Malaga city.
Alicia admits that she got the idea for her assisted therapy sessions from her own experience with dyslexia.
“I found it really difficult to enjoy words and be able to show that I was an intelligent person. I had certain difficulties, but I beat them,” she said, adding, “Dogs give emotional support; they give a lot of love.”