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Pet Stories: In Your Own Words

Therapy Dogs

By: Rick (GentleRick)

This wonderful story struck quite a cord with me as Terry is a Therapy Dog in Training. These animals provide services that can literally help heal.

Shirley

I do not live with a dog at this time. Only once in my life did my family live with a dog and that was when Jenny came to live with us after both my grandparents crossed over. Soon after, Jenny went on her way too.

However I wish to tell you the story of a few special canines I had the

privilege to film recently, in a project for Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. These dogs are "therapy dogs." Trained to deal with a hospital environment, close contact with children, wheelchairs, and patients re-learning to use their limbs, these dogs are very bright, patient and full of love. Also with a great understanding of what they are doing at the hospital, and a passion to do it. I witnessed many of these dogs pulling their human companions towards the doors of the hospital. Each dog wears his own ID tag, and some have scrubs! They all know where they are going and what they are about to do! A one hour visit is much like work for a pet, and most have to take a nap when they get home.

In many states, therapy animals have similar status as service animals, being allowed into hospitals. Mt. Sinai Hospital allows "pet-therapy" visits to patients in: Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, Brain and Spinal Cord Injury, Geriatrics, and Psychology. For children waiting for blood transfusions or chemotherapy, these dogs provide love and a moment of joy during a stressful day. In physical therapy, the simple act of brushing a dog or feeding a treat while learning to regain control of an arm can provide much needed inspiration.

One human companion for the dogs spoke of a patient who had not spoken a word in weeks until she met "Abby." Then she kept saying "Dog." After three months, this patient was speaking in full sentences to Abby during her visits. When patients are excited about the presence of a dog (or other therapy pet) they will move muscles they aren't aware of moving for the first time. Pets also relieve stress for hospital staff and family members at the hospital.

I personally witnessed a patient in a wheelchair who had to work very hard to hold a brush, or a treat. She could only respond with a "thumbs up" but she did so enthusiastically. I also witnessed a child who was very shy, but the presence of a yorkie named Lily was all that she needed to come out of her shell. Lily's human companion simply talked the girl though how to pet Lily and give her a treat and Lily was content to sit in the girl's lap. Though she spoke little, her interaction with Lily increased as the visit went on, and it was clear that she became more comfortable and relaxed.

If you feel that your pet has the temperament to be a therapy pet, check out the website for The Delta Society or The Good Dog Foundation. Or other local organizations that certifies therapy pets.

I have a sneaking suspicion that I will make the room and time in my life for an amazing dog. I was truly moved by what I saw.

Respectfully Submitted,

Rick (GentleRick)

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