A Unique Pet Therapy Is Helping Eating Disorder Patients

The Author Of Pound for Pound Shares How Shelter Dogs ‘Loved Her Back To Life’

By Catalina Barrios


Life is not easy. Life is made of challenges which make you stronger, but everyone’s journey has different difficulties. We all have our good and bad days. I am sure you have had one of those days where you felt nothing came out right. I always tell myself tomorrow will be a better day, go to bed and wake up with a smile. If you feel down, don’t worry you are not alone. You are strong and will get through life’s difficult situations.

A particular struggle that is both complicated and damaging is eating disorders.

SoulPaws Recovery Project, Inc.

Credit: Facebook / SoulPaws Recovery Project, Inc.

Shannon Kopp’s struggle with bulimia started when she was a teenager. She was hospitalized and entered a rehab centre for bulimia and depression. Her life changed when she started visiting shelter dogs whenever she felt depressed.


Credit: PeoplePets

Shannon wrote Pound for Pound: A Story of One Woman’s Recovery and the Shelter Dogs Who Loved Her Back to Life where she narrates her experience struggling with bulimia as well how shelter dogs helped her overcome an eating disorder. After publishing her book, Shannon approached her friend and colleague Dr. Annie Peterson about creating a program for people who struggle with food and body issues where they could integrate animal therapy.


Credit: PeoplePets

In 2016, Shannon along Dr. Peterson founded SoulPaws, a group therapy workshop for people who have been through eating disorders and other mental illnesses where they receive unique and evidence-based animal assisted therapy experiences.

SoulPaws mission is “To Inspire Eating Disorder Recovery and Mindfulness Through Human-Animal Connection”.

Research shows that time spent with animals improves our physical health as well as our mental health and emotional well-being. Petting an animal decreases stress by releasing endorphins in the body. Workshops are currently offered at no charge in San Diego, California.


Credit: SoulPaws

The themes include concepts such as: compassion, vulnerability, acceptance, and resilience. SoulPaws rotates between using therapy dogs, miniature horses, or small animals, all provided by the Association for Human-Animal Bond Studies and the San Diego Humane Society.

SoulPaws Recovery Project, Inc2.

Credit: Facebook / SoulPaws Recovery Project, Inc.

Therapy animals provide participants with the sense of calm and self-awareness. In each workshop. participants learn tools that will help them overcome mental health issues. The goal of SoulPaws is to help participants overcome their eating disorder as well as connect with animals and each other.

Credit: SoulPaws Recovery Project from Shannon Kopp.


Next time you feel down, remember to hug your pet, or ask to tag along when a friend walks their dog. You will always be able to count on their unconditional love and support. Don’t forget “You are NOT Alone!”

For more information about SoulPaws, connect with them online.