Why Therapy Dogs Exist

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Why Therapy Dogs Exist

This is a discussion on Why Therapy Dogs Exist within the Working Dogs forums, part of the Dog Shows and Performance category; There's something touching about this volunteer service. Over the years I have spoken with a number of people wanting to get involved and heard a ...

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Old 05-05-2013, 05:10 PM
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Why Therapy Dogs Exist

There's something touching about this volunteer service. Over the years I have spoken with a number of people wanting to get involved and heard a number of confused assertions: my dog can go anywhere with me, I get to brag about what I'm doing, etc. Some people get into this service for the right reasons from the beginning, others learn and are humbled along the way. It is not a service we can give great details on (due to HIPAA patient information is severely protected, so chatting about our visits really doesn't happen in any detail), therapy dogs are not service dogs and though doors are opened to registered teams--it does not mean Fluffy can come to dinner with you. The focus of the visits is on the dogs, we handlers are basically chauffeurs ... it really isn't about US at all. So, why do so many people spend the time and energy to pass the high requirements for registrations only to volunteer their time?

It is because of the experiences. The attention may be all on Ion who is snuggling and nestling a child, bringing comfort to a family who is nearing a time a loss. But for one bright moment his sable coat has brought sunshine into that room, lifted their spirits, and reminded them of their own by-gone dog. That is as much as I can share--but it is enough. In that room I may as well not have been there ... but through his leash I felt the sensitivity as he read how much a good snuggle was needed and settled right down into the lap that required it.

We bring memories, we bring distraction, we bring something soft and warm to touch, something new to talk about, even a new name to try and roll out. We bring a connection.

It is not about us as handlers, it is not about the dog at the end of the leash--it is about touching lives in need of comfort whatever their reason. Our chosen line of focus is now hospice work where we serve the families and loved ones as well as those nearing the end of their lives. It is not an easy road, but Ion and I are up that challenge. It is a constant reminder to cherish what we have in life ... and to help those we have come to visit remember the good times.

Therapy dog teams: in humble service of the heart.
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Old 05-05-2013, 08:39 PM
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[QUOTE=ShepSheepdog;445946]There's something touching about this volunteer service. Over the years I have spoken with a number of people wanting to get involved and heard a number of confused assertions: my dog can go anywhere with me, I get to brag about what I'm doing, etc. Some people get into this service for the right reasons from the beginning, others learn and are humbled along the way. It is not a service we can give great details on (due to HIPAA patient information is severely protected, so chatting about our visits really doesn't happen in any detail), therapy dogs are not service dogs and though doors are opened to registered teams--it does not mean Fluffy can come to dinner with you. The focus of the visits is on the dogs, we handlers are basically chauffeurs ... it really isn't about US at all. So, why do so many people spend the time and energy to pass the high requirements for registrations only to volunteer their time?

It is because of the experiences. The attention may be all on Ion who is snuggling and nestling a child, bringing comfort to a family who is nearing a time a loss. But for one bright moment his sable coat has brought sunshine into that room, lifted their spirits, and reminded them of their own by-gone dog. That is as much as I can share--but it is enough. In that room I may as well not have been there ... but through his leash I felt the sensitivity as he read how much a good snuggle was needed and settled right down into the lap that required it.

We bring memories, we bring distraction, we bring something soft and warm to touch, something new to talk about, even a new name to try and roll out. We bring a connection.

It is not about us as handlers, it is not about the dog at the end of the leash--it is about touching lives in need of comfort whatever their reason. Our chosen line of focus is now hospice work where we serve the families and loved ones as well as those nearing the end of their lives. It is not an easy road, but Ion and I are up that challenge. It is a constant reminder to cherish what we have in life ... and to help those we have come to visit remember the good times.

Therapy dog teams: in humble service of the heart.


I want to thank you ShepSheepdog for this post. I also want to thank you for the time and effort you have put into such service. Even if the focus is on your dog, you are much more than just the chauffer for your dog cannot give what he does not have.......and you provide him the love and care he needs so he can pass it along to the people you serve. From someone who had a father in hospice, I thank you for your devotion to this wonderful service.

I have spent 30+ years in healthcare with all the ups and downs that come with such a career. I would now like to transition into a little different avenue of healthcare involving animals. I would like to learn to train service dogs for the handicapped and/or returning service men. I realize the difference in therapy dogs and service dogs but I appreciate the information you provided in your post. I have done some research online but am still confused on how to get the training I need. I would like to work under a professional who does this for a living like an apprenticeship if possible. Would you have any information on how I can get started?

Thanks.
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Old 05-05-2013, 10:06 PM
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Bless your heart.

My father was in hospice just over 2 years ago, which is what started me on the pathway to prepping Ion. How I got my best foundation (beyond normal obedience classes) was where I work they run a Therapy Dog class where teams got introduced to situations to learn where their dogs needed help, and how to help them. This was done through practicing teams. Ion and I occassionally function as distractions for the class. If there is something like that in the area, they may also have connections to Service dog trainers where you might be able to learn the skills to train that. Yes, it is a whole nother ball game, and those dogs are incredible!

For therapy dog work--look into the three main registrations: TDInc (Therapy Dog Incorperated), TDI (Therapy Dog International), and Pet Partners (previously Delta). They all have websites and have information about local connections and how to prepare. Each registry has different requirements--and none of them register Service dogs, that is done through different agencies.

Therapy work is a highly rewarding volunteer opportunity. I appreciate my boy very much. And I appreciate those who are in it for the right reasons, those are the ones you can see truly enjoying their visits, the ones who keep going.

Again, bless your heart. The untangible reward cannot be given a price.
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