Therapy animals play an important role in the lives of people in hospitals, nursing homes, schools, hospices and retirement homes. The perfect therapy pet is well mannered, calm, easy going, friendly and eager to meet new people. If you think you and your pet would fit the bill of enriching the lives of others, maybe it’s time to have him certified as a therapy animal.
Canines are the most common animal used as a therapy pet, but horses, donkeys and cats are also quite effective. Hamsters, rabbits, birds and fish are excellent for people in assisted living settings or group homes. Just the presence of an animal can change the feel of a typical clinical environment to a more home-like setting, which helps to reduce stress and promote relaxation.
Because you and your pet must be able to work together as a team, both of you must demonstrate specific abilities. As your pet’s handler, you must be able to read their body language to know if they are feeling stressed out, anxious, bothered by something, getting tired or becoming over-stimulated. You need to interact with your pet in a positive way by praising, encouraging, calming and re-directing them with appropriate commands when necessary. You must be able to carry on a conversation with someone while paying attention to your pet. You need to also be mindful of the well-being and safety of your pet at all times, and maintain a professional and polite attitude while helping people interact with your pet. Read More »
In the summer of 2013, an 18 month old Shepherd mix named Butler found himself in a Charlotte, NC shelter. When representatives from The Weather Channel (TWC) and the American Humane Association (AHA) visited the shelter, Butler had no way of knowing that this encounter would change his life and set him on a path to become a canine hero as The Weather Channel’s official therapy dog.
Natural disasters happen and your best defense is to have a plan, an emergency kit for your family and pets, and safe shelter for all. Recently, I talked with Butler’s owner/trainer/handler, Dr. Amy McCullough from the AHA, to learn more about the importance of therapy dogs in helping victims of natural disasters.
For the past few years, the AHA and TWC have provided tips for pet owners on disaster preparedness and related content online. In late 2013 they joined forces on a new initiative to help communities before and after a storm with lifesaving information, along with reaching out to help storm victims recover and heal. Butler’s role will be to provide animal-assisted therapy to those who need a comforting paw.
Amy was a member of the team that was searching shelters nationwide for just the right dog. “In addition to viewers submitting photos and videos of potential candidates online, I visited four shelters in four states in four days, meeting over 100 dogs. Butler was the second dog I met, and I knew he was the one.” The right dog needed to be at least a year old, in good health, able to get along well with other dogs, remain calm and enjoy meeting new people. “When I met Butler, he was playing with his friends in the shelter, but kept coming up to me seeking attention and affection,” Amy said. She adopted Butler, her third therapy dog, on January 22, 2014.
Where else can you win a stockpile of premium-quality pet food just by subscribing to a blog? I don’t know, but I love that the sponsor of this blog, CANIDAE Natural Pet Foods, awards one new reader every quarter with their choice of a six-month supply of CANIDAE dog food or FELIDAE cat food. I can only imagine how exciting it would be to get THAT email! I’d probably fall off my chair…wouldn’t you?
I always enjoy getting to know the winners and finding out their unique story. Our latest lucky winner was Deborah Van Gelder, who lives in California with her canine friend Denver, a purebred Australian Shepherd. Denver is both a Service Dog and a Therapy Dog, and he and Deborah go to visit the veterans every Friday at the VA Hospital in Loma Linda, California. “Denver and I LOVE going to the VA hospital,” said Deborah. “He will pull me down a certain hallway so that he can visit his favorite patients.”
Deborah and Denver also participate in a fun reading program at local libraries called “Sit, Stay and Read,” which is very popular with both children AND adults. During the summer, they volunteer at a special Kids Kamp helping children who have been abused or neglected. Deborah is a K9 Specialist who trains Service Dogs and Therapy Dogs, and has been doing this for several years.
Since Deborah and Denver do so much for others, I was particularly pleased they won this fantastic prize. I was also happy to find out that Denver has been a “CANIDAE dog” for about three years, and that Deborah credits the food with helping to save Denver’s life!
As Deborah told me, “A while back, Denver suffered from intestinal shutdown (I almost lost him) and had to be placed on bedrest. During that time, I gave him the CANIDAE grain free pureSKY formula. That’s what kept him from being sicker, and it stabilized his system. Since then he’s been doing great!”
Many people rely on service dogs to help them get through their day. Therapy dogs bring a smile to sick children in hospitals or an older person living in a nursing home. Our amazingly talented canine friends can assist people with disabilities, detect medical issues and make it possible for people with disabilities to live a normal life as best they can. Service dogs are in a class all their own. What are some of the different jobs service dogs do?
There’s a difference between therapy pets and service dogs. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines a service animal as one that has been trained to give assistance or perform a specific task to aid a person with either a mental or physical disability. A service dog is a working dog. The correct definition of a therapy pet is an animal that has been trained to give comfort and affection to people in nursing homes, hospitals, schools and retirement facilities, and to help disaster victims deal with stress. The therapy pet usually belongs to the person handling him/her.
A disabled person assisted by a service dog has access to businesses because the person’s rights are protected under the ADA. Therapy dogs are not under the protection of the ADA and their access can be limited or restricted. It’s important to point out, the ADA protects the rights of the disabled person, and not the rights of the dog.
Mobility assistance dogs help people who have physical impairments. These dogs are trained to help open/close doors, push buttons, and retrieve objects for their owner. They can give assistance to people who need help with balance and to walk. Larger dogs can be trained to pull a wheelchair with a specially made harness to prevent the dog from being harmed or injured.
Walker dogs are in the same category as mobility assistance dogs. They provide help for people who are recovering from a physical injury and need help walking. If a dog’s owner falls or loses their balance, the dog is trained to be a brace the person can lean against or use as a “crutch” to get back up. Walker dogs are important for people with Parkinson’s disease; they assist them with walking and helping them keep their balance.
The personal opinions and/or use of trade, firm, corporation or brand names, in this blog is for the information and convenience of the reader. Such use does not constitute an official endorsement or approval by CANIDAE® Natural Pet Food Company of any product or service to the exclusion of others that may be suitable. All opinions in this blog are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® Natural Pet Food Company.