Friday, 18 September 2015

Animania Meets Critterish Allsorts - We Learn About Animals and the Healing Power of Pet Therapy

Me and Stoosh
As mentioned in my previous post Animania sponsors Critterish Allsorts I decided earlier this year to sponsor Critterish Allsorts through my new book Animania. Well last month we actually went to visit Dale and his critters to learn more about the animals and the organization. We had the best day ever and learned so much. It will be a day that none of us will forget in a hurry.
We were introduced to every one of the critters and had a cuddle with a few too. What amazed me was how all of them were more than happy being handled by complete strangers. It just shows how much time and commitment Dale puts into looking after and caring for his animals.
I wanted to explain in more detail what this organization is about, so here is an interview with the man himself.

Interview with Dale Preece Kelly, founder of Critterish Allsorts

How long have you been running Critterish Allsorts?
Critterish Allsorts was founded in August 2010 so a little over 5 years

What made you decide to get into pet therapy?
I got the opportunity to work inside a secure psychiatric hospital with people with severe mental health problems (like paranoid schizophrenia, psychosis, severe depression etc) with brain injuries and severe forms of aspergers and autism. I saw the difference my visits made to these people and had psychologists and speech therapists asking how it managed to get the responses it did. The fact I was helping people, well I was facilitating my animals to help people, made me feel very proud and fulfilled. It’s such a great feeling. I decided there and then this was the direction I wanted to follow with Critterish Allsorts rather than the traditional animal man route - this was a really special thing to do. So I set about researching everything I possibly could about pet therapy and realised that nobody else was using the animals I was using in this way, people were just using dogs cats rabbits and horses. That was in 2011, I am now recognised worldwide as a pioneer in the field

How do you become a qualified pet therapy practitioner?
At the time there were no college courses I could attend, no degrees to do, I was the only person doing it in this way with this range of species. I found an online course with the British School of Yoga. It was based around dogs and horses but the course materials and content were excellent. It taught me a lot - the history, techniques, counselling methods etc more importantly it taught me why and how it worked and allowed me to understand exactly what I am doing with my animals. At the same time, I taught the college a lot about using different types of animals in different ways - they were blown away by my assignments and case studies, using skunks and reptiles and insects. I won their student of the year award!! There is now a degree course at a university in Yorkshire, but that too is a distance learning course. A lot of universities teach about my work when students courses touch in animal assisted therapy, and every year I get approached by anywhere up to 30 students who want to do dissertations on my work or come and make academic studies of its effects. That’s a great feeling. I believe I am still the only "animal man"/animal encounter company who is qualified as an animal assisted therapy practitioner. Many companies offer pet therapy, but many give a type of animal assisted activity, they do not practice the therapy side, which has real identifiable and measurable goals. I do both working one to one with patients and mental health professionals, to give measured results to the patients. If it was not a successful treatment there is no way that we would have the contracts that we do with the huge public and private corporations that we do

How many animals make up the Critterish Allsorts team?
Somewhere between 50 and 60 unless the stick insects have babies in which case it can increase by more than a hundred!!

Can you tell us a bit about the healing powers of pet therapy?
There are so many. Animals don’t judge for starters, they expect nothing, they ask no questions. Animals just exude love and thats all that many people need. For psychiatric patients it offers a focus that takes their minds off everything else thats going on, to be able to just sit with their thoughts and feel loved and wanted by another being. The most profound thing I have had a patient tell me came from a paranoid schizophrenic who told me that when he was with my animals all of the voices in his head disappeared and he was free of noise. That made me cry, to think you have done something like that for somebody who has been plagued by voices for decades just blew me away. He was able to have rational lucid conversations with his doctors for the first time. For others its the only session they will attend because it offers them respite from the pressures. Patients who identify with snakes (each person identifies with a different animal as their therapy animal) get 4 dimensions and snakes do wonders for self esteem...imagine feeling really down about yourself and then doing something nobody else is prepared to do. Suddenly you feel like a hero and so good about yourself. I am currently developing a new revolutionary form of animal assisted therapy that will go into territory as yet uncharted but more on that when its developed (thats an exclusive)

What is the most rewarding part about your job?
Seeing what it does for people. When we are educating it’s how it affects the kids. The looks on their faces when they meet and interact with the animals and the interest they take. With the therapy work, its’ just watching in awe at how amazing my animals are, they seem to know what they are there for and act differently in both settings. They make me so proud, and the results that they achieve are phenomenal. Such a satisfying aspect of it. I also love that I am one of the only people in the world doing what I do the way that I do it, it makes me very proud of what I have accomplished. I’ve always said from day 1 that if I won the lotto or for some other reason became a millionaire, I  would continue to do the work but I would do it for free

What future plans do you have for Critterish Allsorts? 

Who knows what the future holds? I have never had a business plan, I just let the universe guide me (try explaining that to a bank manager) but its worked so far. I come into contact with people by chance and they change the direction of my life. I am a completely different person now than I was in 2010...better, more grounded, I have a better understanding of how all sentient beings work, I work personally on a higher plain than I did then (if that makes sense - I don’t mean I’m above anyone but that I understand more about life about what makes me tick and everything the last 5 years I’ve discovered myself), I have also grown with my animals (I am connected spiritually with each and every one of them and we have a true relationship, they are not just my pets, they are my friends, they are my heroes, they are my equals, they are my colleagues, they are me we are one, they speak and I hear – that’s one of the most important and special things that we have and it’s what makes it work so well).....this possibly sounds like a really pretentious answer – it’s not meant to nor is it my intention but its honest. I have no plans for the future I take everything a day at a time, recent events have taught me that lifes too short to plan anything, you just have to live for the now because truthfully tomorrow is of no consequence until tomorrow. Makes living life so easy. I’ve also discovered a spiritual side in the past 6 months that I never realised I had and I am very much in touch with that, and I know from 4 years of believing the universe will see me right, that whenever I am in need the universe will provide (I could cite so many examples of when it has) so long as I lead my life in the right way and think in the right way too (if any of that makes sense)

You are also the author of the life changing book Organic Guniea Pig. Have you ever thought about writing books based on your animals?

Haha...many times Corrina, but I never thought I could write. Then I met Gerry Roberts when I attended one of his talks, completely random decision. Went on my own, took it all in, and got really excited about it. Went away and wrote that book in 3 months !! I am now working on my 2nd book "You Can" which will hopefully inspire people to follow their dreams as I have for the last 5 years - this one is taking me longer to write unfortunately, due to current demands on my time, but its all good it will be written. I also have another 6 which I have titles for. Now that I know how, nothing will stop me !! I love writing.

In terms of writing about my animals....there may be a book about my work at some point.  I did consider writing some kids books about the animals adventures and that would be really kewl, but I had no idea how to do it or how I would illustrate them - Success Skunks has allowed me to become connected with a few children’s authors and illustrators, but I think I'll leave the children’s books to the experts (hint hint!)

I wont write any kids books now, when I had the opportunity the time wasn’t right for me. If someone else wanted to write them, emphasising the great work they do, then that would make me very happy because they deserve the recognition and kids are always so interested in the idea of animal assisted therapy esp in the States. I visited a high school in Virginia last year to take part in a class and debate on the subject with a group of final year students. I became the mentor of the student who organised it all and she graduated with top marks

Thank you so much Dale for such a fascinating and insightful interview. I am sure a lot of people will be enlightened and touched by it, I certainly was. I am also a great believer in the power of positive thinking and trying to live your life to it’s full potential despite what life may throw at you. I wonder if anybody else out there can relate to this spiritual side too. Do you ever feel that sometimes your life is mapped out? I do at times, you try and go down one path and then things happen forcing you down another. I see any failure or disappointment (and trust me, I have had a few !) on my part as a stepping stone to something better. I may not be where I want to be right now but I am quite content living in the now, even if it does get hard going at times. There is a lot to smile about and meeting Dale and his critters was an experience that my little brood will never forget.

I can’t explain why I was drawn to help Critterish Allsorts, I had never met Dale before, I hadn't even spoken to him before yet something touched my heart and I wanted to help. People didn’t get why I was doing it and it certainly raised a few eyebrows. I can’t explain it myself, it was never part of my plan… it just felt right and things just slotted into place naturally. Over the last few months I have got to know Dale well and we are very similar with our beliefs and outlook on life. He is one of the nicest and kindest people I know, it’s another example of how some people come into your life for a reason. 

I have no idea where things are going, Like Dale I am leaving it all up to the universe, yes I will work really hard but not a clue where it will take me. I am just looking forward to what other fun opportunities come up. For now I am really looking forward to Animania and Critterish Allsorts first joint school visit in October at my children’s school. I am sure there will be other collaborations between the two of us in the near future. I would love to think one day we can work on an animal book together, watch this space.

Have you had any experiences with pet therapy or using the power of positive thinking? If so I would love to hear them so please do leave a comment below.

You can contact Critterish Allsorts via:


  1. Corrina, this is such a fascinating piece. I never knew a snake could be therapeutic. Good to know all things are possible -- true different stokes for different folks! The key take away for me is the importance of finding something that you love to do and making a career out of it. Congrats for connecting us to your heart for critters!

    1. Thanks so much for leaving a comment. The whole pet therapy thing is fascinating, I hadn't even heard about it until last year. It's amazing how it all works. Yes not everyone has the same view points on life, I think having a positive mind frame can be very beneficial to everyone though and it has helped me loads in the past.