'So Needed': Volunteers to help with Evaluations
Monday, August 23, 2010 8:47:00 PM
This past Friday was a special day. I had the honor of volunteering – helping Pet Partners Team Evaluator, Sue Olson, who was conducting five evaluations.
No, I’m not a trained evaluator and have had no special training – I’m not even a Pet Partner. However, I still qualify to help with evaluations – a 22-part test to determine if a handler/animal team can be eligible to become a Pet Partners team. What many people don’t realize is that for a licensed Evaluator to conduct evaluations (first timers and renewals) she/he needs at least 4 or 5 volunteers to assist.
The volunteers role play during different parts of the evaluation to see how the handler/animal team will react in different scenarios – such as walking through a crowd, being petted by 3 people at once, being around people who are screaming and someone walking with a walker or sitting in a wheelchair.
Additionally, a volunteer can assist the evaluator with the paperwork. Each team being evaluated must bring several different completed forms that are to be reviewed prior to the evaluation. With teams usually scheduled one after another, having a volunteer who can help with the ‘check in’ process can be a huge help for the evaluator – especially as the evaluation begins from the moment the team arrives on the premises until they leave.
On the day I volunteered, the other volunteers included a Pet Partner – who was there with her dog so they could serve as the ‘neutral dog’ during the evaluation. Additionally, another Pet Partner and a Pet Partner ‘wanna be’ were helping and a husband of one of the Pet Partners.
Each volunteer had an important role to play. Besides assisting with this critical function, the Pet Partner and the ‘wanna be’ expressed how helpful it was to them to be part of this process. They were able to observe the different teams being evaluated and learned from watching the teams that passed and as well as from the teams that scored a 'not ready' that day.
Becca (the ‘wanna be’), who just recently took the Pet Partners Team Training Course, commented how this was such a rewarding experience for her. It helped her to think through the areas in which she needs to work on with her dog before she does her first evaluation attempt in about a month. Being able to witness actual evaluations was a great ‘training’ element for her, which will help her be more prepared and confident when she walks in with her pooch for her first evaluation.
Bill, the ‘Pet Partner spouse’ mentioned how he enjoyed his afternoon – especially as he had the opportunity to pet so many different, sweet dogs - in addition to showing support to his wife for her passion.
For me, I just had a great time not only visiting with the dogs and meeting the handlers, but also visiting with the seniors who were just thrilled watching the dogs come and go. You see, the evaluation was held in an assisted-living center and as the teams were brought back to the evaluation room, we had a few residents whose day was made as they watched the ‘parade of dogs’.
As one resident who had her lunch brought to a table near the evaluation room said, ‘this is the best day ever!’ She brought out her camera and after an evaluation was completed, she asked each handler if she could take a picture of their dog, then wrote down the dogs' names and descriptions so she could match them up when her pictures are developed.
And, that is exactly what therapy animal work is all about – making other people’s days.
If you are interested in seeing if you can help out with evaluations, why not contact an Evaluator. To find a licensed Pet Partners Team Evaluator near you, use our online directory.
P.S. The pictures above were taken after the actual evaluation, as I didn’t want to disturb the exercises, which can be a little ‘nerve racking’ for the human/animal teams.