Kat has said she wants to train me to be a therapy dog. She said we will be partners.
I know what a dog is, but I didn’t understand the therapy part, so she explained what it’s all about.
Therapy dogs are dogs that are used to bring comfort and joy to other people in a bunch of different places like nursing homes, hospitals, schools, and libraries. Lots of people can connect with dogs and feel the love we offer. This can have a relaxing and helpful influence on them. I like the sound of bringing comfort and joy to people! I’m a happy dog, and I want to help make people happy and feel loved!
Kat said that some people confuse therapy dogs with service dogs. As a therapy dog (that’ll be me!) I’ll be obedience trained and screened for my ability to relate favorably with people and other animals. Kat says we have a LOT of work ahead of us before I can be certified as a therapy dog. She said it might take over a year! That is a long time, but it’ll be fun and worth it I think!
Kat said when we finish our training for certification we will be able to visit facilities on a regular basis to minister to lots of people. That’s EXCITING! Therapy dogs show that they like people and have the personality to work with them. I’m a sweet golden retriever, and Kat says she thinks liking people is in my DNA!! I sure do like Kat and Mike a lot! You should see me showing Mike how much I love him when he comes home from work at night!
Kat told me even though as a therapy dog I will deliver a very important therapeutic service to all kinds of people in need, I will NOT be considered a “service animal.” Service dogs are personally trained for an exact task to help people who have disabilities such as hearing and visually impaired, assist an individual who is having a seizure, and calm an individual who suffers from post-traumatic stress. I will not be doing that kind of thing, even though those are all good things, too!
The most common “Therapeutic Visitation” dogs are household pets (like me!) whose owners (like Kat) take time to visit different places. There is a whole big organization just for therapy dogs called Therapy Dogs International! http://tdi-dog.org/Default.aspx That’s pretty neat!
Here are some of the things I might be able to do as a therapy dog:
- Library visits: Kat said she read that Therapy Dogs International has a program called “Tail Waggin’ Tutors” (I have a very waggin’ tail so this should be my kind of thing!) that encourages kids to read by providing a non-judgmental listener and furry friend (that’s me!) to read to that won’t laugh at them if they make a mistake or stumble over a word. I won’t make fun of them, because they surely will be able to read better than me! Kat will teach me lots of things, but I don’t think reading will be among them. Kat says I will enjoy lying next to the girl or boy while they read a story to me. She says I will have to learn not to chew on the books, though! I will help the children learn to associate reading with being with a dog, so they’ll start to see reading as a good thing. Over time, the kids’ reading ability and confidence will improve because they are practicing their skills, which will make them enjoy reading even more. Right now Kat’s reading puts me to sleep, but I think as I get older I’ll be able to be more attentive!
- Nursing home visits: Kat read on the TDI website that nursing homes were one of the first settings to practice the concept of Pet Therapy, which was developed by Therapy Dogs International over 30 years ago. It will be an encouraging experience to visit nursing homes and meet and greet and love on the elderly, their families, and all other residents who live there. Kat says as a fluffy, cute dog I will have the ability to help calm and soothe agitated individuals as well as lift the spirits of those who are sad and lonely. I will provide a medium for physical touch (because I love to be petted!) and display affection (because I love to be loved!) for those who live isolated lives. Kat said that just me being there can raise the morale of a person and the petting and touching of my soft golden fur will allow people to have a wonderful object toward which they can express their affection. I think that sounds like a lot of fun, and it makes me happy to know I’ll be helping people feel loved!Kat says she will be teaching me tricks as well as how to obey her. She says the residents will be amused by my tricks and antics and their hearts will be stirred by my unconditional love and acceptance of them.
- Hospital visits: Kat said therapy dog visits can have health benefits for hospital patients, and staff members and visitors will look forward to my visits, too. She said there are rules we both will have to learn and abide by depending on which hospitals we visit. Kat told me there is no way to measure the brightness and happiness I can bring to a patient. No blood test or high-tech machine or instrument can determine the difference my wagging tail can make in life of a person!
- School visits: There are things I can do on school visits, too. I can let kids read to me there, like in the library Tail Waggin’ program. Also, Kat and I can work together to teach children dog safety (how to approach a dog), since not all dogs are as nice and friendly and well mannered as I am (well, I’m working on the manners anyway!).
Some other things therapy dogs across the country do are:
Assisted Living Visits
DSRD (Disaster Stress Relief Dogs)
Domestic Violence and Abuse Shelter Visits
Funeral Home Visits
And wherever else therapy dogs are needed!
I like the idea of being needed and having a purpose – to cheer people up and help them and make them happier!