July, 2009 Blog

International Love for Dogs
Friday, July 31, 2009

After traveling for a week with my family in Vienna, Austria and around Salzburg, I noticed an international love for dogs everywhere we went. My first night in Vienna, we went to a local restaurant and half-way through the meal, a large dog came in with his owners and sat by the table next to us. He stayed under the table the whole time and didn’t make a sound. I thought he was a service dog at first, until someone told me that dogs were allowed in most restaurants. Apparently, some dogs even sit on chairs and eat with their owners. How nice would it be to be able to take your pooch out to dinner with you instead of having to leave them at home? You wouldn’t need to get a doggie bag because your pets could eat your leftovers right there!

After years of being known for their dog-droppings around the city, Vienna came up with a “pooper scooper” law to ensure that people started cleaning up after their dogs. They put up doggie-bag dispensers all over the city and signs with a picture of a dog on it reminding people to clean up. I didn’t see any droppings while walking around the town, so it seems to be working. One of our tour guides explained that the Viennese people believe that strict measures are necessary so that peaceful cohabitation between man and dog is possible in the city. 

I saw dogs all over the city, even a few without leashes ran ahead of their owners along the street. While I was shopping, a leashed dog peeked out from beneath a rack of clothes and looked up at me with a look that didn’t quite match my surprised expression. This dog-friendly culture was a pleasant treat for me. I hope that someday our country will catch on and make restaurants and shops open to more than just service dogs, so that everyone can bring their well-mannered best friend out to eat or to shop with them.  Cheers!

-Whitney

I am blessed to have had the opportunity to share him with so many families!
Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Jane Meston recently sent me an email telling me about her experiences as a Delta Society Pet Partners team with her beloved Jamison. "Jamison, my yellow lab, and I have had numerous touching moments as a Delta Society Pet Partners team.

When Jamison came to me a number of years ago, at age 1 1/2, he was a career change dog from Guide Dogs for the Blind. I suspected there was another "giving" opportunity that better fit his personality. Because of his extraordinary gentle nature and loving temperament (and the amazing obedience training he had received) I knew that he would be a prime candidate to be a therapy dog.

We were evaluated by Delta Society, received our registration and set off to find the right place for us. At that time, most hospitals were still reticent about animal visits, so we visited some nursing home patients in our area. When I learned Seattle Children's Hospital was looking for Pet Partners, we signed up immediately. It's an amazingly upbeat hospital, and Jamison and I visited every other week for several years.

Some of our hospital visits truly stand out in my mind. One day, we visited for a few minutes with a little boy about 4 years old. Shortly after, we found him walking the halls to find us. His dad was thrilled to accompany his little guy, and told me he had tried all morning to get his son to try to walk. Jamison helped him accomplish that goal.

Another time, a mom came up to us with tears in her eyes and asked if she could hug my dog. She explained that she and her child had not been home for seven months, and she missed her own dogs so much. There was a little girl in the emergency room who told the nurse that her favorite thing about the hospital was when a big yellow dog named Jamison had visited her room. I remember eyes getting big and wide when a large, soft dog entered the room. I have been overwhelmed by the emotion of parents who thanked us over and over for the wonderful job we were doing. What felt like a small gesture to us was HUGE to them. I remember so many of the employees that enjoyed a break from the stress in their day by petting my dog and talking about their own pets.

Jamison is 11 1/2 now and semi-retired. What an amazing job he did! I was blessed to have had the opportunity to share him with so many deserving families."

Jane, your email touched my heart. Thank you for the many years you and Jamison spent sharing kindness and love with hundreds of families and staff at Seattle Children's Hospital. You two are extraordinary!

Lori Moak-Kean

Safe Harbor: Animal-Assisted Therapy
Monday, July 27, 2009

Dogs have a way of finding the people who need them, filling an emptiness we don't even know we have. --Thom Jones (American writer)

She was 14 years old when years of physical, emotional and substance abuse had whittled away her self esteem and her hope. Her father taught her that it was weak to show feelings, so she kept it all in. That was until now, in this place. She wrapped her arms around the black Labrador/Basset hound mix named Mia and as the dog’s soothing heart beat in her ears, she began to talk. The girl released what she kept in without fear of being judged. This was a safe place to feel.

Nearby the girl’s counselor, Rachel Wright, gently guided her young client. Rachel is a Chemical Dependency Counselor and for 13 years has worked in numerous treatment and school settings with adolescents and young adults. In her practice, Rachel finds that chemical dependency issues rarely occur in a vacuum, clients are often dealing with a variety of issues swirling together; so the counseling is individualized. “You have to truly listen to the client, be flexible, meet the client where he or she is at, and have a variety of treatment techniques in your toolbox.” Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT) has proven to be one of the most effective in Rachel’s toolbox.

According to Delta Society, “… a therapist who utilizes AAT operates from his/her professional foundation and facilitates change in a client through the client’s interactions with an animal.” Rachel added, “You will need to screen the client to determine suitability and desire for this type of approach.” Following the screening, the animal meets the client and a new relationship begins.

This relationship brings with it the opportunity for numerous teachable moments. The most common opportunities Rachel encounters are through goal setting exercises, teaching tricks to the animal and role modeling by sharing her own relationship with her animal. Examples of goals in a therapy session include: to lesson depression, increase self confidence and to address grief and loss issues. If goals have not yet been set then the client can help to decide what those goals will be and how the animal will help them. This echoes the theory of Dr Levinson’s discussed last week, that therapists create a scenario where the patient is “master of the situation”.

So if a goal is increasing self esteem, how can the animal help? One approach is through teaching tricks. Rachel explained that one client wanted to teach Mia to roll over. It took several tries and the girl grew frustrated. Rachel gently encouraged her. Maybe if you put a treat on her other side, or maybe if we tap her side she will roll over. Finally when Mia rolled over there was success. And with the success came personal pride, and confidence. This was the perfect time to ask, “So what are some ways in your life that you can use that same determination and leadership to make things happen?” Often, Rachel observed, the teen will have a light bulb moment and see the correlation themselves. In this way, it doesn’t seem like work as the teen is energized and having fun.

Another aspect that is not always completely recognized by the client is modeling. When Mia gets off the coach she is sharing with the client to get a drink of water, Rachel explains, she is displaying self-care. Asking the questions: “What do you think Mia is doing to take care of her needs?” and “What kinds of positive things can you do to take care of your needs?” can use modeling to further goals. This approach is especially effective with clients newly in recovery from addiction.

Even “failures” are teachable moments. If a trick is not taught or a client feels hurt by a perceived slight from the dog, this can be an opportunity to explore frustrations and emotions that spring forth from past and current experiences.

In all these ways, “Mia has become an integral extension of my professional practice”, said Rachel.

Several months ago, Rachel and Mia were visiting as a Pet Partners team, at Seattle Children’s Hospital and were exiting the front entrance. Rachel heard the voice of a young woman, “Is that Rachel and Mia?” Mia grew enthusiastic; her tail wagging and dancing in place, she recognized her. It was the frightened girl who held her tight and whispered her feelings. Only on this day, there was a young woman in her place; she was clean and sober for 1 year going to support meetings. And she was standing in front of the team who helped give her the tools to turn her life around.

Sometimes you need a safe harbor before setting out on a better course.
-Tricia Lipin

Biscuit Makes Everyday Tasks Easier
Friday, July 24, 2009

Michaela Arroyo was born with Spinal Muscular Atrophy 3, but thanks to her Service Dog, Biscuit, her life has taken a very positive turn. (Spinal Muscular Atrophy is a disease that affects muscles throughout the body)

Her parents raised her to do everything herself; teaching her that if she didn't keep physically active she would lose her abilities. She says that sometimes she was capable and other days it was hard to do anything.

Michaela uses a wheelchair part time, but she didn't think that her disability was severe enough to qualify for a Service Dog - until a young boy encouraged her to apply.

She was already an independent 19-year-old living on her own, attending college, and working part time, but she wanted a service dog to help her stay as independent as possible. In her application she wrote, "The reason I want a dog is to help me when I got out in public and in the house to pick items up and make simple tasks not as difficult as they are now."

Delta Society sponsored a service dog for Michaela and soon Biscuit and Michaela became a team. Michaela reflects on life after Biscuit - "There is a weight lifted, I have more energy than I used to – what little I had was totally absorbed by doing the smallest things and now that I don't have to do those things. I can focus on doing bigger things with my energy and my day."

Biscuit has made Michaela's life easier by picking up dropped items and opening heavy doors. "He has me up early and on a routine," says Michaela. "He is so good! People ask me when they can sign their husbands up for training."

Michaela says that she and Biscuit had an instant connection because they are so much alike, "a bit spacey" as she puts it. When they first started training at NEADS, she says that it was wearing getting the dog to listen to her, but as time went on, everything got easier.

Michaela describes the strong bond she has with Biscuit, "He is the best bud I have ever had, he does things willingly. I call us a team because we work together to get through the day."

"Everyone asks me if it's like taking care of a regular dog and it's not - he is so easy. Because he makes my life easier, he is easy to integrate into my lifestyle." Her family loves Biscuit and her younger siblings always ask why their dog isn't as well-behaved as him.

Thanks to Delta Society who made this team possible by sponsoring Biscuit, simple tasks have been made easier for Michaela and now she has a constant companion and helper whenever she leaves the house.

Thank you Michaela for this inspiring story about how different life can be with a helper!

-Whitney

Her heart is devoted to preserving & celebrating the special bond that we share with our pets.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
I had the privilege of meeting Dr. Brenda Kennedy while volunteering with one of my favorite local animal rescue groups, MEOW in Kirkland, WA. Doc Brenda (as many of us call her) had taken care of a very sick kitten (Mila) for MEOW. She even took the kitten home with her every night to care for her because she refused to give up on the wee mite. Fast forward to my husband and I adopting little Mila. Naturally, with her health issues, I wanted to continue Mila's vet care with the vet who knew her so well.

Here's Doc Brenda's memory of Mila ~

"I remember when Mila was first brought into the vet clinic. She was so weak and dehydrated she couldn't even hold up her head. I heard someone say "oh, that kitten doesn't look like she is going to make it" and I quickly retorted "well, then we have nothing to lose by trying to save her" as I threaded an IV catheter into her tiny vein. With intensive treatment she was able to recover and begin her life again with a new loving family. I never cease to be amazed by the strength and determination of these fragile young patients and the adversity they can overcome."

Through our initial meeting about Mila and her subsequent vet care needs, Doc Brenda and I have become friends. We both spent quite a bit of time in the Boston area years ago so we immediately bonded with our New England backgrounds.

As I became involved with Delta Society, I talked with Doc Brenda about the organization and encouraged her to get involved. She had taken courses in vet school where Delta Society's work had been discussed so she was interested.

As Doc Brenda and I were meeting for coffee (well, tea for her!) the other day, she shared the following with me:

I love my job because it offers me the opportunity to work closely with both animals and their owners, and to be a part of the special bond that they share. In my first year as a veterinarian, I remember an elderly client who was in an automobile accident not far from our clinic. He had his dear toy poodle in the car with him, and when the paramedics arrived to take him to the hospital to assess him for injuries, he flat out refused to go until they made certain his dog was taken to our office to receive any care she might need. Fortunately neither of them had any serious injuries. I was deeply touched by the depth of his commitment to his loyal canine companion, and I have witnessed so many more human-animal relationships like this in the eleven years that I have been a veterinarian.

My passion for helping people and their pets has led me to offer my volunteer services to several non-profit organizations. I first started working with a group called Remote Area Medical in 2006 when I went to Alabama to assist a shelter that was overwhelmed by animals that were displaced by Hurricane Katrina. So many people lost contact with their pets or lost their own lives because they refused to leave their animal companions behind when they were told they could not evacuate with their pets. Since this tragedy, the PETS Act (Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act) has been signed into law. This legislation requires local and state disaster plans to include provisions for household pets and service animals in the event of an emergency. This experience motivated me to continue to champion the importance of the human-animal bond, so I eagerly became a volunteer for Delta Society in 2008.

My brain is captivated by the challenge of practicing veterinary medicine. My heart is devoted to preserving and celebrating the special relationship that we share with our pets. I truly believe that those of us who are fortunate enough to share even a small part of our life with a companion animal are better people for it."

Doc Brenda and Dr. Judy Hung, her business partner, at Eastside Veterinary Associates in Kirkland, WA are very active in the community. In fact, this Saturday (7/25) they will be at the Go Dog Go! Canine Festival at Crestwoods Park in Kirkland between 10:00 AM and 3:00 PM. If you are in the area, I hope you'll stop by.

And, thanks Doc Brenda for all you do to help animals in need who then help enrich people's lives – you are one of my personal heroes!

Lori Moak-Kean

Pictured above is Doc Brenda with Bamboo, who she adopted from MEOW.
Circle of Warmth
Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened. -- Anatole France (French poet, journalist and novelist)

My family moved around a lot when I was a child. One move from Missouri to California was particularly tough on me. The adults were too busy to field my questions and other kids were, well kids. So I found a confidante in the most unlikely of places: a neighbor’s backyard doghouse. Joey was a beagle who wanted to hear every single word I had to say and greeted every anxious look with a kiss. I spent hours talking to Joey. I would sit on the lawn next to him pulling grass for him to nibble and telling him about how scared I was to make new friends. I felt calm around him and I remembered thinking that as long as they have beagles in California, I would be okay. And anyone who owned a beagle would be a friend.

So it was no surprise to me, now, to hear that some institutions and individual therapists seek the help of companion animals in their sessions with clients. But what was news to me was the body of science that backed up that collaboration.

The first formal record of animals being utilized in therapeutic scenarios occurred in 1792 by a Quaker group in England. York Retreat was their response to the lunatic asylums of their day. By “humanizing” the patients through allowing them to wear their own clothes and tend to animals in a common courtyard, they were able to empower the patients to focus on activities outside of themselves. Other animal therapy institutions arose in Europe, but it was not until 1942 that the United States recorded their first animal-facilitated therapy center: the Pawling Army Air Force Convalescent Hospital in Pawling, New York. Again the goal was to have the patients, the convalescing veterans, divert their attention from their sorrows and challenges to more healing therapeutic measures which came about through tending to the animals. Unfortunately, none of those institutions created formal reports, so there was only anecdotal evidence of the impact of animals in therapy.

That was until Dr. Boris Levinson, a child psychologist, who in 1961 was the first to report in detail the therapeutic benefits of contact with pets for children and adults in both inpatient and outpatient settings. The core of Levinson's beliefs was that the animals served as a "transitional object." This meant that the child would form relationships with the pet first, then the therapist and finally with other people. All this was done in a non-threatening environment so the child can feel like the "master of the situation." Levinson identified early on the types of patients who would most benefit from this therapy: "the young non-verbal child, the inhibited, the autistic, the withdrawn, the obsessive compulsive and the culturally disadvantaged."

Influenced by Levinson's work, two researchers Samuel and Elizabeth Corson, studied pet therapy (now termed therapy animal work) in a hospital settling. They reported on the effect of a "widening circle of warmth and approval" which came about as a result of the patient’s positive interaction with the pet which fed into improved relationships with the therapists and then strengthen relations with other staff and other patients. "The initial nonverbal forms of interactions are eventually enriched and strengthened with verbal communication and wholesome emotional expressions and warmth.” (Corson et al, 1975)

Quickly I saw a trend: animals create a diversion away from our issues through nurturing and unconditional love and allow us to begin to open up to a wider circle of people. And then I understood the role Joey played in my own growth. He helped to create a safe place for me to voice my fears and as I opened up to him, the door opened as well to all those people connected into the circle of animals.

Next week, I will explore how this looks from the seat of a therapist who is accompanied by her dog in her therapy sessions.

I found lots of wonderful research at Delta Society’s library; in particular I quoted from the book: New Perspectives on Our lives with Companion Animals by Katcher and Beck.

Tricia

Pets Teach Children Responsibility
Saturday, July 18, 2009

When I was growing up, we had a black Labrador retriever named Lucky. She was my first pet. She would sit beside my high-chair and wait for my sticky hands to get within licking range or for me to drop something on the floor for her. Having her around at such a young age made me love animals, and dogs especially, because I had such fond memories of Lucky.

When I turned 7, after a lot of begging, my parents got me a Chocolate Labrador puppy that we named Brandy. Since my siblings were much older than me, Brandy and Lucky were like siblings to me. When I wasn't with friends, I was dressing up the dogs in costumes, taking them on walks and playing pretend.

It's important for children to have responsibilities that relate to activities they enjoy and pets are a great way for kids to start taking responsibility. It gives them a positive environment for teaching them to respect their belongings and to take charge. Bathing the dog, taking the dog for walks, cleaning up after the dog, and feeding the dog are all character-building responsibilities that can make kids feel good about themselves. These things also give them a sense of pride in what they're doing to help. I didn't always enjoy all of the responsibilities that came along with owning pets, but it made me appreciate my animals more.

Pets are also a great comfort for children whose parents may travel a lot or have busy schedules. My parents went on a lot of business trips, so I had a lot of time at home with babysitters and I remember how much having my dog, Brandy, there helped. She was very attached to my mom, so I felt like we were always in it together for the time that we had a babysitter. Other times, when I would spend the night at my babysitter's house, my babysitter would put her Poodle in a crate and leave it in my room at night, because it was comforting to have the dog there.

Even if you can't own a pet, there are lots of other ways for kids to benefit from animals. I went to horse camps every summer, some were day camps and others were a week long. We had to clean out the stalls, the horse's coat, tail, hooves and feed them. When I was in High School, I started volunteering at the Humane Society; that was a rewarding experience because I got to play with the dogs and they were always so excited to see people.

Delta Society further explains the benefits of owning a pet on their website. Here are some more facts.

Research studies have indicated that:
•Owning a pet enhances a child's self-esteem.
•Having pets teaches children responsibility and respect towards other living beings.
•Children owning a pet are more involved in activities such as sports, hobbies, clubs or chores.
•Having an animal during therapy sessions or other animal-assisted activities/treatment shows significant improvements in the treatment procedures of a child suffering from an ailment.

Having a pet can be a wonderful addition to the family, providing you with great memories, and lots of stories to tell. Its fun being able to look back now at pictures and see a big brown or black dog sitting next to me. It'd be great if every kid could grow up with a similar experience of having two best-friends.

-Whitney

Suzy-Q is always eager & oh so happy to cuddle with sick children….parents, too!
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Suzy-Q is a three year old chocolate lab who was adopted from Homeward Pet by Arron and Jacquie. They adopted beautiful Suzy in 2006 because they fell in love with her big brown eyes. As Jacquie told me, "While all the other dogs were barking and jumping in their kennels, Suzy-Q was just sitting there quietly with a ball in her mouth and those big brown eyes which to this day, nobody can resist. Needless to say our search for a dog was over and we couldn't be happier. Since she was already 3 years old and responded to her name, we decided that is was not necessary to change it."

Arron and Jacquie have been volunteering at the Ronald McDonald House (RMH) in Seattle for the past 5 years. Since Suzy's temperament is so laid back and she loves people, big and small, they inquired at the RMH about having her registered as a Delta Society Pet Partner. And, in just under a year she successfully completed her basic obedience, Canine Good Citizen, and eventually all three became Pet Partners teams.

For the past couple of years, Suzy-Q goes to the RMH on Wednesdays to visit with the families staying there. "One of us will stay with Suzy-Q while the other one takes the families on shopping trips, then we switch every week. The parents, as much as the kids, love to come by and just hang out with Suzy. She's always happy to cuddle with whoever stops by and cheers up those who need it. If it's a slow night with not many visitors, sometimes Suzy falls asleep and the kids get a kick out of hearing her snore as she can be quite loud! The staff also loves her as well and she always makes her rounds to see everyone and never fails to leave the House without a tummy full of dog treats.

In fact, the Volunteer Coordinator at the RMH always has doggie treats on hand and Suzy always knows when she's coming and instantly perks up before she's even in sight. Sometimes we have to remind Suzy that she's actually "working" as she gets so spoiled by everyone!" said Jacquie.

Arron, Jacquie and Suzy enjoy their weekly visits to RMH. Many of the parents and children thank them for coming in. In fact, one little girl can often be heard yelling Suuuuuuzzzzzzy from down the hallway as she is coming in to visit Suzy. Several parents have said that their child would never get close to a dog yet pretty soon they are petting Suzy and sitting right next to her. The kids especially love to pet her ears the most as "they are the softest".

Jacquie mentioned a particularly poignant "a ha" moment when sharing their story with me.

"One of the parents had just lost their child from cancer and was returning to the RMH from the hospital. She was obviously completely heartbroken and crushed. Shortly after she came in, her friend came to see us and asked if we would mind bringing Suzy to see the mom as she apparently had a lab at one time and loved dogs. Of course we agreed and Suzy gingerly made her way over to the woman. Through all the pain which I couldn't even begin to imagine, the lady indeed gave Suzy a big hug and there was even a quick, small smile. You know, I haven't thought of that story for awhile yet it still gives me chills. It is definitely moments like that which remind me how VERY important simple things like bringing Suzy in to visit the RMH for a couple hours a week can be."

Arron says that the majority of the time people mention that Suzy reminds them of their own animals which have either passed away or are at home being taken care of while they are staying at the RMH. Of course, these folks miss their own pets very much but it makes them smile and laugh as they tell all kinds of great doggy stories. In addition, Suzy seems to provide a relaxing and easy break for both the parents and the kids; giving them a nice, fun distraction from the reasons why they are at the RMH.

A sincere thank you to Suzy-Q and her two humans, Arron and Jacquie, for their wonderful volunteer efforts. You three provide comfort, kindness and smiles every Wednesday at RMH!

Lori

P.S. Did you know that approximately 30% of all Delta Society Pet Partners teams adopted their animal partner from a shelter or rescue organization!
'Backyard' Adventures
Tuesday, July 14, 2009

If you've read some of my earlier blogs, you know that my 'little girl' is a rescue who is working on gaining confidence. Over the last year we've taken several classes – obedience, agility and therapy dog skills – and, she continues to progress. But, for this summer I decided to take a break from classes. Instead I purposefully pick a couple of outings each week for Belle and me to help her get used to going to new places, and to become more comfortable meeting new people. Sometimes it is just the two of us and sometimes we meet up with friends.

What a great couple of weeks it has been. As I look for different places to take Belle, I have found a lot of interesting things to do – and have met so many nice people. Whether it is going to local community events, various farmers' markets or parks, taking a drive to explore a new town, catching up with friends on a nice walk or enjoying a meal at an outdoor café….. it's been great. It made me realize what a rut I was in. Because Belle has inspired me to find new places to help build her confidence, this is turning out to be one of my 'funnest' summers – and it doesn't hurt that the weather's been cooperating. When I first moved to the Seattle area I was always out exploring. Then over the last couple of years I 'settled in'. How silly – so many great things to do. It is fun to once again to be exploring the area and finding new things to do with friends or with Belle by my side.

A few weeks back, Belle and I staffed a Delta Society informational table at a MuttMixer sponsored by City Dog magazine. Not only did we meet lots of great people, but I picked up the latest edition of the magazine. What perfect timing – there are some great glimpses into many dog-friendly destinations and activities.

It is probably evident by now, that I'm enjoying this new sense of 'backyard exploration' – but what about Belle? She's having a great time walking through all these new places – her tail is high and wagging as she prances about. She's still shy when someone wants to pet her, but she's slowly getting more comfortable with this – and I carefully monitor her comfort level to know when to encourage others to pet her and when to let her rest.

So, if you find yourself doing the 'same old, same old' – why not get out the leash and find a new place or two for you and your animal friend to explore. Who knows – maybe we'll run into each other!

JoAnn

Pictured above: Belle resting after being in a 4th of July parade, and playing with her new 'Bichon Buddies' group who we found on one of our outings.

A weekend full of inspiration!
Monday, July 13, 2009

As Delta Society's Marketing Coordinator, I get to spend a lot of time out in the communities of the Puget Sound staffing a booth at community events like this weekend's Mercer Island Summer Celebration.

As is typical of these events, we had Pet Partners teams also staffing the booth, providing therapy to event goers and promoting the program. This weekend was a bit special though because a large percentage of these teams were brand new to the program and this was an opportunity for them to get their toes/paws wet.

One team in particular was very inspiring to meet, Bobbi and Tanner. Tanner (an 8 year-old Golden Retriever) was diagnosed with cancer this last winter. Luckily, the cancer was isolated in his back-right leg and was removed in January. Prior to his being diagnosed, Tanner was an agility competitor. Bobbi was determined to find something for Tanner to do to help him recover and keep him active – thus, she worked to become a registered team. The moment you meet Tanner you know, he is someone special; so happy and loving, just glad to be here one more day.

We had a great time with them at the booth, and they are going to make a terrific team for hopefully many months and years to come. Bobbi and Tanner are still working to find the right place for them to visit, but once they begin their visits I will be sure to share their journey with you.

-Candice

Animal Reflexology - Bonding for You and Your Pet!
Saturday, July 11, 2009

Animal reflexology is a great way to bond with your pet and learn more about how you can improve your pet's health and reduce stress. This should be a relaxing experience for you as well!

Just like us, animals experience stress, which is the most common cause of all illness and disease in pets and humans alike. Luckily, we have a lot of the same anatomy in common, so natural therapies that have been used on humans are shown to also work on animals.

Jackie Segers, a certified reflexologist who lives in Auckland, New Zealand is coming to Seattle in August, to discuss natural therapies in her new book, "Reflexology for Cats". Her workshops will be at the Seattle Reflexology and Massage Center. Go to their website to sign up and bring your friendly cats, dogs and rabbits (by arrangement with the teacher and SRMC).

Her book is the first practical book on paw, ear, and face reflexology. In the book, she also discusses acupressure, Bach flowers, craniosacral therapy, holistic pulsing and Reiki. At her workshop, she will teach how these and other energy balancing techniques can be used on animals to maintain good health and to help during times of illness, surgery, or trauma. This is a class for all animal lovers or people interested in animal bodywork or care. Check out her website to learn more about her book and what reflexology can do for your pet.

This is a perfect way to spend quality time with your pet, which is a nice benefit for your health as well. As you may know, just petting your animal can boost your spirits and make you feel calmer. Imagine how relaxed you both would feel after a class focused on reducing stress. Now, if only your pet could take a class or read a book on how to give you a wonderful, therapeutic massage!

-Whitney

He shows everyone disabilities don't mean a thing!
Thursday, July 09, 2009
Claire's hero is named Yankee Doodle, a Dalmatian adopted from a rescue organization named Willing Hearts. Claire fell in love with him the moment she saw his photo on Petfinder.com. He stole her heart despite finding out he was hearing impaired – actually totally deaf.

"O'well, what difference could it make; he could still eat, drink, and play", said Claire. Claire tells the story of Yankee Doodle's metamorphosis from deaf pup to therapy dog extraordinaire ~

"Unfortunately I broke my hip and had to be hospitalized. On a day when I was feeling really down and out, in walks a beautiful therapy dog named Griffin. It not only changed my day, but my life. I asked the handler if a deaf dog could be trained to do therapy work, she said yes. I started obedience just to check it out, I cannot say it was easy – I was the problem! Once I settled down, Yankee did a great job, so we went on to Pet Partners work. The day we passed our test to be registered Pet Partners with Delta Society; our trainer had tears in her eyes, so did I!

Yankee has been working at St. Raphael's Hospital for over two years and we both love it. No one can describe the feeling you get when a patient smiles when you walk in the room, or says "you made my day". The staff at the hospital is always so glad to see us. I think sometimes they need more therapy than the patients. I am so proud of what this loving animal has become. We visit all the hospital, SICU, all departments, and the waiting rooms. Talk about stress, the waiting rooms are full of it.

Every year St. Raphael's takes a poll with its employees, to nominate someone who has made a difference in their work year. Yankee Doodle was nominated and for the first time a dog was given a "GOLD STAR".

I feel Yankee Doodle has gone beyond his limits and by doing this has made a really big difference in all our lives. He shows everyone disabilities don't mean a thing, disabled dogs or disabled people, they can really make a difference in the world. Most of all, he has shown me what devotion and caring is all about."

As the hospital's newsletter said, "The love that this dog radiates to everyone he meets is amazing! His presence opens a door for conversation and smiles among patients, nurses, doctors and other staff, visitors and volunteers alike."

Yankee Doodle and Claire are putting the sparkle in patients' eyes and smiles on their faces!

Lori

TELL US: What Interests You About the Healing Power of Pets?
Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Delta Society bloggers want to know what interests you about the health benefits of having animals in our lives. Whether it is a heart-warming story about how a service animal is helping further the independence of someone special, or research about how animal-assisted therapy has been shown to have therapeutic benefits for children with autism – we want to know!

Tell Us! Complete our blog reader survey Delta Society's website by clicking HERE.

Thank you! We look forward to hearing about what interests you in the healing power of pets.

Colleen Finds Independence Through her Service Dog Tuffy
Saturday, July 04, 2009
Colleen Hughes, a young woman with Cerebral Palsy remains active and has gained her independence through a service dog whose training was sponsored by Delta Society. When she was eleven years old, Colleen learned about a sled hockey program while at the hospital. Nothing could stand in her way from becoming an avid sled hockey player.

Colleen uses a wheelchair and was dependent on other people to help her get around and to pick things up for her. That is until she learned about service animals while at a sled hockey game and she got Tuffy – her very own service dog.

Now she has Tuffy to pick things up for her and help open doors, making Colleen feel more self-sufficient. Colleen says that just having Tuffy there means the freedom is there.

It was a big stress off of Colleen and her family to have Tuffy funded by Delta Society, because they weren't sure how they were going to afford to pay for it. She was getting older and getting to a more independent age - they knew that Colleen was going to need a dog.

Colleen's mom describes her daughter's new sense of freedom after receiving Tuffy, "She is a lot more independent, she was independent spirited before – but now her life matches it." According to her mom, the security of the dog helps Colleen feel like she can go places and won't get hurt. She used to always want to be within eyesight of her mom, but now she just calls the bus and goes.

Now that Colleen knows how to take care of herself with Tuffy's assistance, and is working to get her diploma through a tutoring program to prepare for college, her mom keeps telling her that she needs to begin looking for her own apartment.

Having Tuffy has forced Colleen to grow up a lot because now she is responsible for Tuffy in a way that she hasn't been able to be responsible for anything before. She is more willing to participate in the family, help out with the dishes, and do her own laundry.

"When you have a dog, you know someone is always going to be there for you," says Colleen. "She helps me out a lot and everyone loves her. She is a part of the family."

Thanks to the sponsorship from Delta Society, life is easier for Colleen and her family. Through her Service Dog, she was given the gift of freedom and independence that no one else could give her.

Tuffy sounds like a great addition to the family. Thank you Colleen for sharing your story with us and enjoy your newfound independence!

-Whitney
The smile Oreo creates lights up any room…it's truly awesome!
Thursday, July 02, 2009
Meet Marcy and Oreo, her adorable black and white rescued rabbit. Here's their abbreviated story as told by Marcy.

I adopted Oreo from an animal shelter. He came into my life to take the place of his predecessors, Maxine and Marbles, lop eared mom and son therapy bunnies. I knew that I wanted to continue volunteering and I had already picked the name Oreo, which meant I was on a mission to find a black and white rabbit! All of my animals have been rescued, meaning they were abandoned and or abused by previous owner(s) and needed homes – so there was no question in my mind…Oreo would be a rescue as well.

My journey with Oreo began with spending lots of time together before we went for our registration with Delta Society as a Pet Partners team. Getting registered was pretty easy, since Oreo was well prepared and we knew what we needed to do. Oreo passed with flying colors and is registered with a complex rating which means we can visit any and all facilities in our area.

Oreo visits each facility in beautifully themed baskets that Marcy decorates for all holidays. Everyone loves Oreo's name because he looks like an Oreo cookie with his distinct coloring and markings. Oreo always has on his little harness and leash.

Marcy says being a Pet Partners team has enriched her life, almost beyond words. It has been the most amazing, self satisfying experience. "I believe that I get as much if not more from my visiting than those I'm visiting. Volunteering has allowed me to give of myself and share Oreo's amazing fuzzy spirit. I've met wonderful people and pets and am doing something that has added a new dimension to my life.
There is nothing better than being able to put a smile on someone's face and help relieve some stress. The smile Oreo creates lights up any room..It's truly awesome".

Ruby Keefe is the Program Coordinator at a school where Oreo and Marcy visit. She said "The possible explanations for Oreo and Marcy's magic are endless. Perhaps it's because the children can so relate to a black and white bunny named Oreo. Perhaps it's the novelty of a bunny who sits in a basket or on a blanket and listens – without judgment – to the wonderful stories being read to him. Perhaps it's the patience that Marcy displays when attempting to leave – always willing to stop for one more child to say hello or goodbye to Oreo. Or perhaps it's as simple as my daughter put it, "I like talking to bunnies and I felt happy when I read to Oreo" (this from a child who used to hate to read!) Whatever the reason, the magic is there; the magic is endless. I hope you will join me in my high regard for this magical Pet Partners team."

Oreo and Marcy are certainly making a difference in many people's lives and we thank them for their fabulous volunteer work! Check out our website if you'd like to learn how you and your pet can become a Pet Partners team.
Lori

 

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