From the book EVERY DOG HAS A GIFT: True Stories of Dogs Who Bring Hope & Healing Into Our Lives by Rachel McPherson, founder and executive director of the Good Dog Foundation.
Tens of thousands of people across the nation work or volunteer with a therapy dog. I have the privilege and honor of working with hundreds of such dedicated individuals through The Good Dog Foundation. As its executive director, I am continuously blessed with opportunities to enrich the lives of people of all ages by introducing them to the unconditional love of a therapy dog, whether it be in a hospital, correctional institution, psychiatric facility, elementary school, nursing home, or any other facility where people who have physical, emotional, educational, or spiritual needs can benefit by a visit from a dog therapy team.
As wonderful and endearing as therapy dogs are, they are half of a team. When the human halves are asked why they volunteer their time and effort, the most common answers I hear are that it is “tremendously rewarding,” that they “get back much more than they give,” and that they “love the joy their dog brings to others.” These individuals and their dogs go out into the world as a team and share that joy with thousands of people every year.
Many people don’t realize that you can’t just walk into a hospital, nursing home, or other facility with your dog without first going through some training.
The relationship between you, your companion dog, and the people you visit is complex, and there are guidelines and some special skills that you will need to learn before you walk into a facility with your dog. These basic requirements are necessary to help ensure the safety of you, your dog, and the people you visit. All therapy dog organizations have their own guidelines and evaluation requirements that individuals and their dogs must meet in order to be a part of their visiting dog therapy programs. In the following articles I will describe how The Good Dog Foundation prepares dogs and handlers to become team.
If you live in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, or Massachusetts, and are interested in our training, please take a look at our website, www.thegooddogfoundation.org, and give us a call!
Copyright © 2010 by Rachel McPherson and Lynn Sonberg. Reprinted by arrangement with Tarcher Books, an imprint of Penguin Group USA, Inc.