When we brought home two Golden Retriever puppies we immediately began to seek professional training for them and enrolled in both the Puppy Kindergarten and Basic Obedience training classes with Jane through Saanich Recreation. It was during these sessions that we learned about the role that therapy dogs could play and the services that many perform in hospitals, seniors homes and other public services….
We have had dogs of our own as children and again when our own children were growing up but now, as we were retired, we thought that the dogs might make a worthwhile contribution to our community. As I had recently retired as a teacher both in the public school system and at U Vic and, believing that with the dogs, we might make a positive contribution in the schools, I contacted Diane Marshall, Principal at Frank Hobbs Elementary.
The staff of Frank Hobbs agreed to let us come to their school and work with the children. For the past year Cooper and Benson and I have gone to the school at least two afternoons a week where those children, selected by their teachers, have the opportunity to read, interact, and communicate with one of the dogs. Cooper is especially good with children who have autism and he has made a significant impact on several children with special needs – increasing their confidence, verbal communication and behaviour. There are many children who have English as a second language or who just need practice in a non-threatening setting. Benson is especially good at listening to children read orally. He is non-judgmental, makes eye contact, and often vocalizes in response to their reading.
As part of the process for certification as therapy animals through the Pacific Animal Therapy Society, puppy kindergarten and basic obedience training, assessment by an impartial veterinarian for both health and behaviour, and orientation to the legal and ethical considerations for therapy animals were important steps. The gentle nature of the Golden Retriever as a breed and my own background as a teacher were also factors that made me decide to have the dogs serve in the schools.
As soon as I put on their blue Therapy Pet bandanas and take them to the car the dogs get excited because they know where they are going. Everyone - children, staff and parents know the dogs and greet them warmly when we arrive. This past year we have worked with dozens of children in grades one through five. In June last year the dogs were given Special Service Awards by the school during the final recognition assembly. Since then they have been asked to go to another school, Sundance Elementary, and so we begun to visit there this year as well.
In their role as therapy pets, Benson and Cooper …
• provide opportunities for children to communicate through both verbal and non-verbal expression in a safe and comfortable setting using dogs as active participants and active listeners with a teaching professional in a support role.
• help students with profound special needs gain self-confidence, self-esteem and positive communication and socialization skills.
• help children gain awareness, empathy and sensitivity towards an animal as a partner in their learning and in exploring the world around them.
Recently I have been asked by Sadey Guy of the Pacific Animal Therapy Society to act as a resource for anyone who maybe interested in the PATS “Paws and Tales” program. I can be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or 250-721-5970.
This is a wonderful training treat for dogs. It has the consistency of fudge so you can break off different sized pieces and the dogs can eat them quickly without a mess. It is also "smelly" so your dog can anticipate the treat!
Dogs that have appropriate outlets for their energy are usually happier,
healthier, better socialized, and better mannered dogs. Off-leash dog play
is becoming a more popular way for owners to exercise their pets. However,
for some dogs, off-leash play is not all fun and games.