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"Helping People, One Dog at a time."




Feel good stories

During our therapy dog work in the community, we observe some amazing events or get feedback from people that can put a smile on your face (or a tear in your eye). Here are two such experiences:

Story 1: teachers at one of the elementary schools we visit decided that one little girl (we’ll call her Annie) could benefit from being with a therapy dog, mainly as a result of domestic trauma Annie had been experiencing. The trauma had been so severe that Annie had become a selective mute and hadn’t spoken to anyone in six months. Because of the therapeutic help that our dogs can bring, the teachers duly signed Annie up for the program and, each Thursday morning, Annie would visit with one of our dogs. Bringing a book with her to show the dog, Annie would just point to the pictures rather than read to him. The same pattern of behaviour happened each Thursday until the fourth week when, out of the blue, Annie started talking to the dog about the trauma she had experienced. Not having spoken for six months, the teachers were completely amazed that Annie had decided to share her innermost feelings with the dog but realized that they were witnessing a breakthrough in the healing process for Annie. The reality was that Annie had developed such a strong bond with the dog, be it in a relatively short time, that she felt safe and secure in telling her traumatic experiences to the dog and unburdening what she’d been carrying around in her mind for the past six months.

Story 2: George was in his golden years and found himself being cared for at one of the seniors’ lodges we visit with our therapy dogs. Being a dog lover all his life, George really missed the companionship that his dogs had brought him in his younger days. As such, it was no surprise that George never missed an opportunity to be in the lounge the days when therapy dogs were scheduled to be on site so he could visit with them. The time came when George was taken ill and he passed from this earth. A short time after his passing, his daughter wrote to the handler of the dog that George visited with most. In her letter she expressed on behalf of her father what a blessing he had felt to know this particular dog and what the relationship had meant to him. Foregoing any other event that may have been organized at the lodge on the day of the therapy dog’s visit, his week centred around seeing the dog. Talking to the dog, petting the dog and sharing stories with the furry, non-judgemental listener was all George ever wanted, witnessed by the family whenever he would talk about his special friend.

Dogs can tell when people need their loving help and both Annie and George had been at the right place, at the right time, to have the stars align for them.

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Therapy Dogs Versus Service Dogs

Both therapy dogs and service dogs perform special work in our communities but there are some significant differences between the two types of dog. Therapy Dogs: 1) Are trained to a level of obedience which covers basic commands. 2) Are encouraged to be accessible to more than one person during a therapy session. 3) When out walking, the handler and dog are “off duty” and can be approached. 4) Are normally family pets trained by their owners or basic obedience dog trainers. 5) Can be from any breed of dog. 6) Generally cost the same amount to raise as any other dog. 7) Have no more access to places in the community than regular dogs. 8) Have no specific fitness or health regimes to abide by. 9) Can continue working for as long as is appropriate (may vary by therapy dog group). Service dogs: 1) Are trained to a high level of obedience, with concentrated training performed by specially trained dog trainers to teach the dog to service the needs of it’s handler. 2) Are trained to service the needs of it’s handler and it’s handler alone. 3) When in harness, is working and should not distracted by people approaching it. 4) Are bred specially for helping people with disabilities. 5) Tend to come from specific breeds of dog. 6) Cost considerably more to raise than a regular dog because of the amount of labour intensive training and overhead cost required. 7) Are allowed access, by law, to any facility that their handlers have access to. 8) Are carefully monitored for fitness levels and weight to ensure they can continue to perform satisfactorily for their handlers. 9) Are normally retired from service at around 10 years of age Common characteristics: Both therapy and service dogs: 1) Have a friendly disposition and can relate to people and other dogs in a non aggressive way. 2) Play a significant role in adding value to people’s lives.

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