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With Deep Gratitude
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
We recently received this letter and from Tressie Armstrong, Principal at Kelly Elementary School in Carlsbad, California. We hope you will take the same inspiration we did from this community’s courage in the aftermath of a near-tragedy at their school and the role our Delta Society Pet Partners played in helping the children reclaim their playground and their sense of safety.

I wanted to take a moment to sincerely thank you for the work you do for healing with dogs. On October 8th of this year our school was victimized by a lone gunman who jumped a fence during lunch recess for our youngest, six- and seven-year olds. He fired into the crowd of children with the intent to cause major trauma and, to be blunt, kill as many children as possible. We had no casualties, though two of our girls were injured with bullet shots in their right arms. You can only imagine our shock and terror, and the ensuing sadness that our beautiful little school and its innocence was attacked like that.

Over the weekend, we sat as a district team to determine how to bring the children and their families back to the school with as little trauma and fear as possible. The number one question was, “How do we reclaim our school?” We decided to throw a Celebration of a Miracle, because that is the only description for all of the interventions that prevented death. Our celebration was big, beautiful, and SO much fun, and our families ALL showed up.

The next question was how to help our innocent babies reclaim their space on the field where this bad person tried to take it from them. Enter, Delta Society Pet Partners. Your team of professional and skilled dog teams visited our school every recess and lunch for two weeks straight following the incident. We had teams of 5-6 dogs and handlers every single day. They began at the edges of our playing field and quietly moved further onto the area where the gunman came over the fence. The children were SO excited and calmed by the dogs that they did not even notice that they were in the “area” where someone tried to harm them. It was not long before the children owned their playground again.

Just last week we needed to have students interviewed to gather information from them as to what happened on October 8th. We were concerned that it would re-open fears that were beginning to fade a bit. Re-enter the Delta Society dog teams…and happy children who were just excited to see their friends again.

Our community is a magically strong and collaborative one where everyone takes care of each other and works together for the good of the children. We put the children first, always. We take care of each other. When this tragedy attempted to strike us, it served to make us stronger. We are a resilient and loving school that builds on challenge and helps children to become stronger. In this instance, we did not allow this person to take away the qualities that define our school…we refuse to allow his evil intent to win over our good. Your team of angels with fur most certainly are a major contributor to the success and sense of joy for our children. You helped them to reclaim their space, their home, their hearts. For that, we cannot thank you enough.

Now, on a personal note. Before all of this occurred I have been bringing my own Labrador Retriever, Rosie, to school on Tuesdays and Fridays to read with children. She has been an integral part of our school for four years, and the children and their families adore her! I was elated when Lois Abrams, one of your angels who was visiting us, asked if I wanted her to complete the evaluation for Rosie so we could join your team! For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted Rosie to work with helping people, so of course we jumped at the opportunity! After watching your teams in action, I can’t think of a better place for Rosie and me to help the world and to specifically pay it forward for all who have assisted our children and community in healing. I just ordered the study guide/manual and will be completing the process ASAP.

I thank you, again, at this most gentle time of the year, for the good work you do. I am deeply humbled and grateful; and so excited to join the team of caring individuals and furry angels who do such selfless work for the world.

Most Sincerely, and Merry Christmas!
Tressie Armstrong
Principal, Kelly Elementary School

Non-Dog Therapy Animal Teams "Pig" the Spotlight in Reading Program
Monday, December 13, 2010
Seven-year-old Ainsley Arnold needed someplace safe and welcoming where she could practice her out-loud reading skills. So her mom brought her to the library. Not to join a reading group with other kids, or even a librarian-led story time. She came to the library to read to a specially trained guinea pig named Daphne, who sits contentedly when petted and likes to follow along with children's stories.

"Parents and caretakers can't help but correct young readers," said Rosalyn Hope, a children's librarian in Anoka, who organized the second-ever "Pig Gig" reading event at the Rum River Library. "Reading to animals is the epitome of safe and non-judgmental."

Ten years ago, an animal event at a public library would have featured a gentle, specially trained therapy dog. But for a variety of reasons, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, llamas and even chickens are gaining popularity with schools, hospitals, libraries and doctors' offices that use the services of therapy animals.

"In the past two years, we've seen more non-dog therapy animals come through than ever before," said Carol Ouhl, a dog trainer in Cottage Grove who evaluates animals on behalf of Delta Society. It's one of two national therapy animal organizations, but the only one that will register animals other than dogs and horses.

According to Delta Society, Minnesota has two active therapy chickens, six therapy guinea pigs, seven therapy cats, four therapy rabbits and two therapy llamas. One big reason, say volunteer animal handlers, is that children's allergies are at epidemic proportions, and many organizations are now loath to have dogs (and their accompanying pet dander) in their facilities.

Also, some Muslim parents will not allow their kids to touch dogs for religious reasons.

But the biggest reason, said Ouhl, is that people figured out they've been underestimating their non-dog animals all along. "People think you can't train a cat or a chicken to 'come,' but of course you can," she said.

In fact, Patti Anderson, the owner of Daphne and sister guinea pig Dora, has clicker-trained her animals to come on command, spin in circles and shake a paw.

Tanya Welsch, a clinical social worker in St. Paul, has a therapy chicken named Woodstock, who -- for a piece of shredded cheese -- will come or sit on command. People who have mental-health therapy sessions with Welsch will often place Woodstock on their laps and stroke her back feathers or her Tina Turner-inspired hairdo. (Woodstock is a Silkie breed, which means she has a puff of punk-rock white feathers on her head.)

Woodstock "has excellent eye contact," said Welsch. "As people talk, she just sits very still, and listens, and looks right at them." When Woodstock is really relaxed, said Welsch, she makes a throaty sound called a chicken "purr." "But it's not like a cat purr," Welsch said. "It sounds more like a little growl."

Working with non-dog therapy animals has its special challenges.  Guinea pigs, for instance, live for only a few years, and even trained guinea pigs like Daphne need lots of carrot enticements and frequent rest breaks. And even expert animal trainers say it takes a special non-dog to be a good candidate for volunteer therapy work.

But Ainsley, for one, is a believer. "It was fun," she said. "I wish I could read to a guinea pig all the time."

--Originally published in the Minneapolis-St. Paul StarTribune
Quick Poll: Who's the Top Dog? (winners)
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Thanks for taking the time to cast your vote for the dog you think is the most common breed in Pet Partners teams. Here are the answers (dog breed (number registered)):

1. Golden Retriever (1540)
2. Labrador Retriever (1378)
3. Standard Poodle (387)
4. Sheltie (324)
5. Australian Shepherd (241)
6. German Shepherd (237)
7. Border Collie (201)
8. Shih Tzu (194)
9. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (193)
10. Collie (141)




Being Thankful for the Animals in Our Lives
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Eli was a 3-year-old Weimaraner that was found wondering in a small town in Mississippi. He was taken to a kill shelter that contacted Weimaraner Rescue of the South. After Meggan and Chris Reisch picked him up, they had him checked out by the veterinarian and sadly he was diagnosed with heartworm. Meggan nursed and cared for Eli through the heartworm treatment. He was posted on the WRS website as being available for adoption, with no one inquiring for nearly a year. Meggan’s house was then hit by Hurricane Katrina. After spending four days without electricity in the sweltering Mississippi heat, Eli was transported to Memphis to another foster home.

My husband and I had recently lost our dog of many years and decided to start looking for another dog. I was on the WRS website when I saw the most magnificent Weimaraner head I had ever seen. When I clicked on the image, there was Eli sitting in front of some beautiful flowers in a garden looking very stoic. I examined his picture and read his story. It described what a good boy he was and that he could get into his bed on his own even though he was “missing a leg”. I took a second look at his picture… the description was correct. He was missing his right front leg. After much discussion and consideration we made the trip to Memphis where Eli became a member of our family.

It was apparent early on how very sweet and obedient he was. And he always seem to have a smile on his face. I had always wanted to do Animal-Assisted Activities/Therapy and decided he would be a great therapy dog. So I enrolled him in a no jump class (his only bad habit), obedience 101, and obtained his Canine Good Citizenship Certificate. Eli and I then passed the screening and we officially made it into the Therapy ARC/Delta Society Pet Partners program.

We attended handler only classes going over Delta policies and procedures discussing different clinical situations, most importantly how to keep your animal safe during visits and what would be required to pass the Delta Pet Partners team evaluation.

The morning of our team evaluation I was a wreck. As usual Eli just seemed to take it all in stride, and instead of me trying to reassure him, he was reassuring me! The evaluation is an extensive two part test that consists of 22 different exercises comprised of obedience skills and simulated visiting scenarios. As we completed the second portion of the test the evaluator looked at me and said “Congratulations, you and Eli have passed!” I had to fight back the tears for both of us but mainly for Eli, the 3-year-old Weimaraner, who came from a kill shelter, had heartworm, is missing his right front leg, survived Hurricane Katrina, and appeared as though he might not get a forever home was now a registered Delta Pet Partner!

We currently visit Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital in the Pediatric Infusion Clinic. I thought this was where we were meant to be and pursued the opportunity. When I have the privilege of putting his Delta vest on and our ID badges, you can see that he knows what he is about to do.

The children in this clinic are very sick, but after our first visit, it was confirmed why we visit there. There was one little girl who was undergoing treatment. When we arrived, she danced for Eli, she shared her “Sponge Bob Square Pants” socks with him and then blew him a kiss. You see she was unable to touch him because of her isolation but was elated at his visit. Eli then got on his back and wiggled around with his feet in the air as she giggled at him. She said he made her happy.

Eli is such a blessing to us and everyone who has had the opportunity to meet him. He has endured so much in his lifetime and continues to teach me life lessons everyday. He also proves to us that dogs don’t hold grudges, become our most enduring friends and are masters of forgiveness.

Guest Blogger
~ Sallie McWilliams

Sallie would like to thank: Weimaraner Rescue of the South for all you do! A special thanks to Meggan and Chris Reisch, Vanessa Brown, Allison Williams, Kat Martin, Ken Walker, Mindy Whitley, Debbie Glover for doing the photos, Sara Reynolds and the Volunteer Services of Vanderbilt Childrens Hospital.

To find out how you and your pet can become a registered Pet Partners team like Sallie and Eli, click here.

No Dog Left Behind
Friday, November 19, 2010
While browsing through stories about the human-animal bond, I found a write up of a documentary called No Dog Left Behind. It’s about the enduring friendships forged in wartime between military men and women and their canine comrades. The film reveals the power of the human-animal bond to comfort, heal, and inspire the best in people in the worst situations; to find their humanity in the midst of dehumanizing conditions.

Helping these soldiers is a tireless and determined animal rescuer who has gone to heroic lengths to set up an under-the-radar network of airlines and contractors, veterinarians and donors working together to bring these animals home. Terri Crisp began Operation Baghdad Pups from her office at SPCA International in 2007 and has continued rescuing dogs ever since.

The documentary features the stories of four dogs and their journeys to their new homes in the United States, Lava, Moody, Patton and Nubs.

No Dog Left Behind will air on Saturday, November 20th at 6pm EST and again on November 21st at 4am EST on the Military Channel.

To watch a clip of the show and get more information about it, click here

Enjoy!
~Stephanie
Study Finds Dogs Reduce Stress in Autistic Children
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Dogs are known as man's best friend but a new study has found they can help children with developmental disorders as well.

Researchers from the University of Montreal found specially trained service dogs could significantly reduce anxiety levels in autistic children.

The study, published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology, also found that pooches could help develop their social skills. It is an area many autistic children find difficult as they struggle to understand other people's emotions and feelings.

It could provide a relatively simple solution to help affected children and their families cope with the challenging conditions.

Study author Dr. Sonia Lupien, said: "Our findings showed that the dogs had a clear impact on the children's stress hormone levels. I have not seen such a dramatic effect before."

To detect stress-levels, Dr. Lupien and her team measured the amount of cortisol present in the saliva of 42 autistic children.

Cortisol is a hormone that is produced by the body in response to stress and is detectable in saliva. It peaks half-hour after waking up, known as the cortisol awakening response (CAR) and decreases throughout the day.

Dr. Lupien said: "We used it to determine the effect of service dogs on the children's stress levels by measuring it in three experimental conditions; prior to and during the introduction of a service dog to the family, and after the dog was removed."

Throughout the experiment, parents were asked to complete a questionnaire addressing the behaviours of their children before, during and after the introduction of the dog.

On average, parents counted 33 problematic behaviours prior to living with the dog, and only 25 while living with the animal.

Dr. Lupien said: "Introducing service dogs to children with ASD has received growing attention in recent decades. Until now, no study has measured the physiological impact. Our results lend support to the potential behavioural benefits of service dogs for autistic children."

Reposted from the Daily Mail (UK)

~Stephanie
Why We Love Cats & Dogs
Wednesday, November 03, 2010
Have you ever wondered why you have a pet? Why are you drawn to having a dog or cat or horse or turtle? I have two dogs and two cats and I love them more than anything (except my husband, of course.) And sometimes, when I'm surrounded by my fuzzy family, I think about how lucky I am to have them in my life and why they're in my life. The connection I have with my critters is something I've never experienced before. I can't explain it why I love them so much. I guess it's just because I do.

In February 2009, the PBS show "NATURE" aired a program called "Why We Love Cats & Dogs." I remembered enjoying the candidness of the folks being interviewed talking about their cats and dogs and what made their animals special and what the animals added to their lives. It's funny, cute, informative and heartwarming. And lucky for you, the full episode is online for everyone to enjoy! 

From the NATURE website:
Some people are cat people, some are dog people. But regardless of which camp they fall into, most people are simply crazy about their pets. The connections people form with their cats and dogs are often the longest, strongest relationships in their lives. They are our soul mates, our best friends, sometimes even our surrogate children. What makes these creatures such key members of our families?

Perhaps it’s because our furry friends have long provided us with comfort, camaraderie, and unconditional love. Cats and dogs are our unending source of kisses, cuddles, slobber, claws, and laughs. Watch as NATURE shares the stories of pet owners and their beloved animals. From a very special dog named Jerry, to a cat that saved a man’s life, "Why We Love Cats and Dogs" presents a portrait of some of the most powerful and remarkable connections we experience as humans—the unbreakable bonds with our pets.

To view the 50-minute full episode, visit PBS' NATURE website

~ Stephanie
Can Pets Improve Your Relationship?
Friday, September 24, 2010
Dr. Suzanne Phillips thinks people often treat their pets better than their spouses. She may be right.

In her article on PsychCentral, the psychologist says that we can learn how to improve our human interactions by focusing on how we treat the relationships we've fostered with our pets.

She finds that most pets are loved in a way that makes us minimize or even deny the reality that they definitely have demands we simply accept. Like, some will only eat certain food; many wake people in the middle of the night; most get sick on the rug; some eat furniture and a vast majority end up on the bed no matter what anyone says.

If we are willing to take a closer look at ourselves, we can learn something from our relationship with our pets that might enhance our relationship with our partners. It's the old expression "you get what you give," for example:

Greetings: No matter how you feel or what mood you are in, you greet your pet with a positive, even animated, hello and often with a display of physical affection.

Expectations: With pets, maybe it’s your lack of expectation that makes the difference. You probably rarely predict that your pet will be angry if you are late. As a result, you don’t head home defensively angry in preparation for the reaction you expect to face.

We hardly need to look at the research to verify that pets do good things for people physically and emotionally. She found in her work with couples that although couples may vehemently disagree on most topics, they usually both soften in manner and tone to agree that the dog, cat, bird or horse is great.

So think about what you give your pet and maybe how - in addition to improving your health - your pet can improve your relationship!

You can read the full article here

~Stephanie

A Dog to Read To
Thursday, September 16, 2010
I wanted to share an inspiring video from ABC World News Tonight featuring Delta Society Pet Partner team Don Smith and three-and-a-half year-old whippet Brasil.

Don and Brasil participate in the D2R2 (Dogs to Read To) program at a library in East Norwalk, Connecticut. In its first year, the program provided more than 80 “dog hours” when children were given the opportunity to hone their reading skills by reading to specially trained and managed dogs.

Many parents know how difficult it can be to get a child motivated to read when he or she is having difficulty. Every stumble or hesitation can be a cause for embarrassment, which leads children to avoid the practice they need to improve. Programs like D2R2 demonstrate how having a nonjudgmental, furry friend at your side relieves the pressure and provides comfort.

study this year by researchers at UC Davis bears this out. After 10 weeks, children who read aloud to dogs improved reading skills by 12 percent and were more enthusiastic, engaged and confident about reading. Children in the same study who didn’t read to dogs showed no improvement.

If you have a child who is struggling with reading or know someone who does, search for similar programs through your local library or by looking online. If you can’t find a program nearby, consider engaging the help of a family pet. (A second study by UC Davis of home-schooled children who read to dogs showed 30% improvement.)

Congratulations, Don and Brasil on this great recognition of your service! Enjoy the video:



—Bill
Pets Build Better Communities
Wednesday, September 08, 2010
USA Today is hosting a survey asking “How does your dog most enhance your life?”  (You can vote and see the results here).  The current leading responses will sound familiar to just about anyone who has ever had a pet:  “offers companionship,” “helps me exercise,” “helps me relax” and “amuses me.”

Two responses that don’t have quite as familiar a ring are a ways back in the polling.  “Helps me heal” is at five percent, and “helps build community” is at two percent.  Since the other choices have such broad appeal, I’m not entirely surprised these are lagging behind.  Just 10 years ago, I doubt either would have even made the list.

There is no question companion animals have profound, positive effects on our health and sense of well being (see Stephanie’s recent blog entry for more).  And Delta Society’s Pet Partner animal-assisted therapy teams demonstrate the powerful healing effect animals have on humans.

But can the benefits of pet companionship extend beyond individuals and help build the community?  The little research that has been done on that question is telling us yes.

study conducted in three Australian suburbs suggests that pets facilitate social contact and interaction, foster a willingness to help neighbors out, encourage community activity and increase feelings of neighborhood safety.  Non-pet owners identified people walking dogs as one of the ways they get to know and recognize others in the neighborhood.  The presence of people walking dogs also contributed to increased feelings of collective safety and a generalized sense of community.

So it seems companion animals may be enhancing our lives – and a lot of more of our lives – in more ways than we think.

– Bill
What is Your Dog Doing to Your Health?
Friday, September 03, 2010
Earlier this week I had the great misfortune of getting stung by a wasp on the inside of my ring finger. Yes, it was as painful as it sounds. Two days later, I went to the doctor and received a shot of Prednisone, a powerful steroidal anti-inflammatory drug. The swelling came down, but it caused my heart-rate to go up, which is one of the many side-effects of the drug. I’ve been feeling very edgy, like I want to jump out of my skin for the past couple days, but at least the swelling and itching is gone. It's the lesser of two evils.

During the past couple evenings, even though my heart-rate was still a little high, I was noticing how much more calm I felt. I assumed it was because I wasn't at work or commuting, but I think it was something else. It seemed all my critters were rallying around me, whether it was while I was watching TV, on the computer or sleeping (as seen with Dr. Moki in the picture.) It’s like they knew something was up with me and were just making sure I was being taken care of. Makes me wish they could all join me at the office and on the commute to help me manage these side-effects a little easier!

And then today, I came across this article, “What is Your Dog Doing to Your Health?” on Techcombo.com about the research being done by the National Institute of Health on the health effects of having an animal. It reminded me that animals do serve another purpose by being in our lives. They can help you feel better when you’re not feeling well. And that's exactly what Drs. Moki, Marta, Oscar & Gracie were doing.

It's a very interesting article with some amazing findings by the NIH. You can read the full article on Techcombo.com.

~Stephanie

Your Dog May be Your Child's Best Homework Assistant
Monday, August 30, 2010
Students who have difficulty reading may have a number of reasons for their challenges, including language delays and cognitive disorders, but the results are usually the same: low grades in school which can lead to poor self-esteem and self-confidence. As parents explore solutions to improve their children's reading skills and performance, they can add one more tool to their arsenal - dogs. The soothing presence of a dog can motivate and support children as they read aloud to them.

Many libraries and schools put this practice into use through 'read to the dogs' programs, utilizing registered therapy animal teams but this same practice can be applied in your own home. The primary goals of these programs are to help the child relax and become less anxious, to help the child focus on reading without fear of being judged, and to create an enjoyable experience that will increase the child's self-esteem and confidence.

"Dogs provide that nonjudgmental, entirely accepting audience that allows children the opportunity to practice and become accomplished readers," notes Sherry Markel, PhD, a classroom teacher and college professor. Dogs don't make small movements in their faces when a child is struggling with a word; they don't inadvertently cause undue stress.

Many of Delta Society's registered Pet Partners take their dogs to schools and libraries to help children improve their reading skills. The educators and librarians support the 'read to the dogs' programs, as they and the children's parents not only see the children's reading skills improve, but also their self confidence. Children who are hesitant to read aloud in class often find reading to a dog to be a much 'safer' environment.

Parents with family pets – why not apply this same principle in your home?

You can help your child select a book that features a dog, then invite your dog to lay quietly next to your child while he reads a story aloud. If your dog falls asleep – that's fine, 'she's probably just closed her eyes to imagine the pictures'. If reading isn't a challenge for your child, your dog can still help your child with their homework. Just having your dog at your child's side while he is studying can provide a calming environment and help relieve anxiety and stress that may arise.

To learn more about how dogs can impact our children's and families click here.

JoAnn

Humans and Their Pets in Katrina's Wake
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
It took a story I heard on NPR yesterday morning to make me realize it’s already been five years since Hurricane Katrina struck the gulf coast. Hard to believe that much time has passed since images of the disaster are still so fresh in my memory.

Amidst the countless human tragedies caused by the hurricane, there were also untold numbers of tragedies for animals. I remember some news footage of a tree that several cats had climbed into to get above the rising floodwaters. Also helicopter shots of family dogs who took refuge on the rooftops of flooded homes. I’m sure there are other images that stick with you.

Because animals were not allowed at the Superdome and most other emergency shelters, the people of New Orleans often had no choice but to leave their pets behind when the evacuation was ordered. Katrina dogs and cats that rescue groups were eventually able to reach were dispersed to adoptive families throughout the U.S. Most of those families were not told and had no idea that someone might one day come looking for their pet.

A documentary now out on DVD called “Mine” (Film Movement, May 2010) tells the stories of people who were separated from their animal companions by Katrina and their epic efforts to reunite.

For the original pet guardians, the search for their pets often takes months and in some cases years of detective work done by themselves, family members and dedicated volunteers. When a pet is finally located, the job of convincing the adoptive family to return the animal often becomes an emotional custody battle. Lawyers even get involved.

The documentary is partly a tribute to animal rescuers who did what they could to save and find homes for Katrina pets. It’s also a powerful testament to human perseverance. But more than either of these, “Mine” is an exploration of the powerful bond between people and animals and how that bond endures — and is often magnified — through tragedy.

I give it four paws, Bill

P.S. I'm excited to be on board as Delta's new VP of Marketing!

'So Needed': Volunteers to help with Evaluations
Monday, August 23, 2010
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.

JoAnn

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.



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