Sounds like a great idea, right? A nice furry friend to help us humans out when our lives get tough (which is often!) A little bunny to curl up with you on the couch while you watch a movie and cry after being dumped by your boyfriend. Or maybe a well-behaved friendly dog that visits senior citizens at a nursing home on weekends wagging his tail and giving puppy kisses. Whatever the case may be, surely there are a wealth of positive feelings attached to that mental image that just make you feel warm and fuzzy inside. The idea might even leave you feeling as though you want to train your own Fido to give back to the community in just the same way. But there’s just one problem…how does he become “certified” as a pet therapist??? Does he have to go to school and get his Psych degree? Seems a bit outlandish, no? Is he going to have one of those couches for humans to lay on while he smokes a pipe and listens to all of our woes? Hmm…not too sure he has the attention span for that, or the patience for that matter! All jokes aside this is a question that I myself have looked into, and I thought that it would be neighborly of me to share some of the fruitful pieces of info that I was able to dig up.
Dogs of any breed, size and shape can become Therapy Dogs as long as they have one important characteristic: An excellent temperament. They must be patient, gentle, calm and well mannered, and like all kinds of people. Since they’ll be petted and handled, they also must enjoy human contact. Dogs must also be healthy and at least one year old. I personally thought that this was very cool! There’s no bias against pitties or any bully breeds, no ageism or preference with regard to color or demand for a “purebred” dog over a “mutt.” (Jeez, if only the whole world could be so open minded!)
I also learned that Certification and training varies by organization, but typically requires behavioral and obedience tests. Therapy Dogs International (TDI), the oldest and largest therapy dog organization in the U.S. (located in Flanders, New Jersey) requires a therapy-dog evaluation for suitability, which includes the American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen (CGC) Test, among other tests that assess the dog’s behavior around people. These are really the very first steps that you should take if you are interested in getting your dog certified as a therapy pet. After completing these steps you can then look into the individual state requirements and training centers near your residence. I was able to find some good local resources within my home state through an online listing provided by dogplay. One of the newest (and I think cutest) ways in which therapy dogs have come to serve us humans is through a program for children called “Tail Waggin’ Tutors.” This program helps kids that are nervous about reading publicly by giving them a very accepting yet captive audience of a four legged furry friend that listens patiently without judgement. Now tell me, just how precious is that?
In this current sociopolitical climate we are constantly bombarded with images of war on television, on the internet and on the front pages of newspapers and magazines. The current unrest in Libya, the West Bank, Afghanistan and other areas in the Middle East have left us all feeling more than a bit unsettled, anxious and saddened by these world events. There seems to be an unending stream of young soldiers being “recycled” back into these war zones, each time we pray for their safe return and rally behind them, hoping that they are able to survive yet another deployment so far from home.
That being said, there is a light at the end of these dark tunnels, and this, not surprisingly to us, comes in the form of a four legged friend. Yep, that’s right, one of the most effective and widely accepted forms of therapeutic intervention used with soldiers returning home from war has become that of the family pet, or for those that do not have one, a therapy pet. One of the most basic principles associated with the effectiveness of this form of therapy is the simple fact that these soldiers do not feel judged by their furry friends. What a simple yet beautiful gift! The gift of love and understanding with zero judgement, zero expectations, just a wagging tail or a purring ball of fur looking for another caress. Wounded warriors participating in the study attended their regular life skills classes and an additional 30 minutes with a certified therapy dog and their handler — known as pet teams. During the sessions, the wounded warriors learned to train the dog in obedience tasks, and the rest of the session was spent on “playful interaction.”
If these words haven’t been able to convince you of the power of furry, four-footed love, I think that these videos speaks VOLUMES: Soldier & his dog, Boxer & Soldier,Beagles & Soldier,The Welcome Wagon,
This is just ONE of the many ways that animals serve us. How beautiful is it that we have these love bugs that want nothing more than to be with us, to see us happy and make us smile? How lucky are we as human beings that we have been given such a gift as that of these gentle giants who so selflessly give of their affections? It is my sincere hope and dream that Furry Freuds will continue to grow so that I can help facilitate the connections between those that need their love, and these intuitive creatures that have nothing but love to give.
Ozzy was initially a gift from my brother for my sister-in-law. She had Boxers growing up and he wanted to surprise her with Ozzy. Less than a year later my dear sister-in-law and Ozzy’s mom was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer at the age of 35.
After diagnosed Linda and my brother had little time to take care of a rambunctious Boxer puppy, so he went to live with our dad for awhile, and then eventually found a permanent home with me. I will never forget how Linda’s face would light up for the joy that Ozzy brought to her while he was visiting his momma. We still fondly recall the happier times when Linda would talk to Ozzy her made up southern accent and say “Hi Boy!” as soon as she saw him. Weak and think from chemotherapy treatments, Linda, ever the brave soldier and cancer fighter would stand at the sink doing dishes and Ozzy would come up behind her with his squeak toys and nose them right into her butt, even when she hardly had any butt left at all and she would just laugh and smile. These are the bittersweet memories that we are now left with that still bring a smile to my face. Devastatingly, after over a two year long valiant fight, she eventually lost her battle with this insidious disease and left us for her heavenly home.
The statistics and research regarding pet therapy among cancer patients show that there is a vast benefit associated with having a furry friend in that person’s life during those crucial times. Animals have been proven to improves quality of life through increasing exercise and overall activity levels, as well as decreasing anxiety, depression and despair. It is my hope that through the use of this site I will be able to bring together animal rescues, veterinarians, philanthropists, animal behaviorists and activists in order for all of us to pool our resources in a fight for the greater good. Thereby simultaneously working to eradicate the cancers inherent in society as well as those that plague our bodies.