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.


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.


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.

Newborn Babies Steal Pets' Spotlight
Friday, August 20, 2010
I read a very interesting article over the weekend, one about newborns and pets. A study was done in Indiana and it showed that people with children spent less time with their animals and took them to the vet less often. However, this less-sentimental view toward pets tends to shift back after the children grow up. Empty nesters often reported that relationships with their pets were stronger after the children left the house. Another interesting tidbit was how people look at animals as pets differently. Which type are you? You can find the original article on the LiveScience website.


Move over, Fluffy. Baby's on the way.

Pet owners often swear that a new baby won't change how they feel about their cat or dog. But a new study of pet owners in Indiana finds that parenthood does affect the way people think about and treat their domesticated furballs.

The study involved survey questions about how much time people spent with their animals, what they did together, and how often the pets got medical care. The last question was a proxy for how well the animals were cared for.

"In all cases for dogs and cats, except for cats going to the vet, children adversely affected the animals," study researcher David Blouin, a cultural sociologist at Indiana University South Bend, told LiveScience. "People with children spent less time with their animals and took them to the vet less often."

That's not to say that parents neglected or mistreated their pets. It just turns out that the way we view our pets depends a lot on our social context, Blouin said.

Pet Nation

Pet ownership is incredibly common in America, with over 60 percent of households claiming at least one pet. The way people interact with their pets has also shifted over time, Blouin said, which made him wonder what other factors make a difference in how people see their relationships with a pet.

To investigate, he mailed surveys to 1,900 dog and cat owners in Indiana. Almost 600 people, 307 dog owners and 271 cat owners, responded. The results showed that, for the most part, people really love their pets. Almost 93 percent of dog owners and 77 percent of cat owners took their animals to yearly veterinarian appointments. Fewer than 1 percent of dog owners and 4 percent of cat owners admitted to never taking their animals to the vet.

Pet owners also reported spending lots of time with their animals. Over 80 percent of dog owners and 67 percent of cat owners said they spent more than two hours a day interacting with their pet. All but a few percent of people spent at least some time with their pets each day.

Defining the relationship

To find out more about how people felt about their pets, Blouin arranged in-depth interviews with 35 dog owners. He found that people reported intense emotional attachments to their dogs; often, the dogs would sit on the owner's lap throughout the interview.

"It was moving at times to see how attached people were and how much they did get from their relationships," Blouin said.

Blouin's previous research has found three types of pet owners: Dominionists, who are fond of their pets but view them primarily as useful animals, not companions; Humanists, who see their pets as practically human; and Protectionists, who see animals as separate beings that humans have a responsibility to help and protect. The last group includes many people who take in foster pets or volunteer to care for abandoned animals.

He found that people who live in rural areas tend to hold more Dominionist attitudes, while those in cities are slightly more likely to hold a Humanist view. He also found that people with children reported that their attitudes changed with the birth of their child. Before the birth, he said, people reported feeling like their pet was their child. After having a kid, they were less likely to hold that attitude.

The findings could explain, in part, why people with kids spent less time with their pets, Blouin said.

"Part of it is time and money, perhaps just not having the resources," he said. "But also part of it is about definition."

Fortunately for fluffy companions everywhere, this less-sentimental view toward pets tends to shift back after the children grow up. Empty nesters often reported that relationships with their pets were stronger after the children left the house.

Walking the dog

Even if you view your pet more as a useful animal than a fuzzy child, it may be wise to not set your cat or dog aside when a new baby comes along. Pet ownership can be enormously beneficial, said Rebecca Johnson, a professor of nursing at the University of Missouri and director of the Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction. Studies have shown multiple benefits to interaction with companion animals, from lowered blood pressure to increased survival after heart attack.

Johnson and her team have studied the health effects of dog-walking on people over 60. They've found that people who walk with a dog from an animal shelter increased their walking speed by 28 percent, compared with no significant increase in people who walked with a human companion. Part of the reason for the difference may be in the dose of doggie enthusiasm, said Johnson, who was not involved in the current research.

"If treadmills provided the kind of reinforcement that dogs do, we wouldn't have the obesity epidemic that we do," she said.

Even better, she said, the dogs that participated in the walking program were more likely to be adopted and less likely to be euthanized — just the kind of result to make a Protectionist smile.

By Stephanie Pappas
LiveScience Senior Writer

"Taking your 'child' to work" day
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
A few months ago, we received this recap from one of our Pet Partners teams who wanted to share a special day with you. While most teams visit singularly, this story shares how sometimes there are special occasions when visiting in groups can be extra special. Thank you Sandra for taking the time to write this blog post.

~ Lori

As the elevator doors opened, we could hear the buzz of excitement coming from the meeting room. “The dogs are coming,” chorused the young voices, “the dogs are coming!’

The DogSports therapy Delta team from Lancaster, PA, had been invited back for the second year to the Lancaster General Hospital’s “Take Your Child to Work Day.”

Calvin, the huge, gentle giant of a yellow Labrador Retriever, led the way as seven Delta Society Pet Partner teams filed singly into the large meeting room. As we stood with our dogs across the front of the room, hospital staff, parents, and one hundred applauding kids, from infants to teens, greeted us (Pictured: Front Row - Heath, Daisy, Sierra; Back row - Calvin, Murphy, Parker, Bentley, Summer.)

Jan, our group leader, began our program with a brief talk about the mission of the Delta Society organization, and what handlers and dogs must do in order to become a Delta Society Pet Partners team. She explained the training and evaluation requirements, and described the types of facilities we visit, along with the kinds of interactions we might experience on our visits. Each team then introduced themselves individually, talked a little about their dog, and how long they had been in service as a Pet Partner.

The real fun began as each team demonstrated canine tricks, obedience, or dancing with their dog to the delight of the crowd. After the laughter and the audience calmed down, the kids responded with many intelligent questions and then got to participate in their favorite part...petting and interacting with each dog!

The compliments and appreciative comments we received from the staff and parents, and especially the laughter and smiles from the kids, made the day special and rewarding for all of us. The kid’s faces lit up with delight as they could hardly wait to pet the dogs. Many people seemed surprised at how well the dogs interact and get along with each other, as well as the public. We were really pleased to hear the many favorable comments citing that the dogs were happy, relaxed, and exceptionally well trained.

It is truly a blessing to be able to share our beloved dogs with our community, and beyond. They give back so much!

~ Sandi Bonenberger

The DogSports Delta Team:
Alicia Conklin-Wood and “Calvin” -Yellow Labrador Retriever
Donna Lutz and “Murphy” - Chocolate Lab
Jan Maier and “Daisy” -Black Lab
Linda Edwards and “Parker” - Golden Retriever
Linda Locker and “Sierra” - Black Lab
Rebecca and “Summer” - Golden Retriever
Sandi Bonenberger and “Heath” - Basset Hound

Why everyone should have a memorial for their family pet
Monday, August 16, 2010

I recently spotted this blog posted on Aug. 4th, 2010 on the website 3 Jewels in My Crown and felt compelled to share it with you - I hope you find it as touching as I do.      JoAnn

Dear Friends,

Flora Connell was laid to rest today.  Her life was ended much too short! Cause of death was determined to be from accidental candy sprinkle intoxication.

Funeral proceedings were as follows:
Life Sketch/Obituary .....Opal
Musical number (Give said the little stream)…hummed by Sapphire
Processional to graveside ………………. Led by Dorothy the Dinosaur
Poetic reading…………read by Robert M/
Burial Ceremony………Grave Digger the Monster Truck
Pall bearers....................Opal and Saphhire
Honorary pall bearers.....Bailey, Pearl, Mommy and Daddy

Flora and her family thank you for all the love and support you’ve shown!!!

A poem dedicated to our beloved friend Flora.

We Only Wanted You~

They say memories are golden, well maybe that is true.
We never wanted memories, we only wanted you.
A million times we needed you, a million times we cried.
If love alone could have saved you, you never would have died.
In life we loved you dearly, in death we love you still.
In our hearts you hold a place no one could ever fill.
If tears could build a stairway and heartache make a lane,
We'd walk the path to heaven and bring you back again.
Our family chain is broken, and nothing seems the same.
But as God calls us one by one, the chain will link again.

So why did I go to all this trouble to celebrate the life and mourn the death of a fish that cost $1.99 at the pet store? For the sake of my kids, of course! It is important never to belittle or ignore your child's relationship with a deceased pet. To say that it was "just a beta fish, and we can get a new one tomorrow" does not address the child's grief or teach the child the importance of the human-animal bond. Loosing a pet may be your child's first exposure with death so it is important to deal with it in a dignified way.

The Funeral or Memorial Service
Allowing your child to help plan the funeral or memorial service is another way of helping them deal with the death of the pet. Some ways to honor the deceased pet include:

• Creating a slide show, photo collage or scrapbook
• Decorating a burial container, if the pet was small (bird, hamster or frog)
• Picking out the casket and headstone (if buried at a pet cemetery)
• Writing a poem
• Singing or playing a favorite song
• Drawing pictures
• Creating a special bracelet from the pet's collar or leash
• Donating unused pet food, supplies and toys to an animal shelter
• Raising funds to donate to an animal shelter in the pet's memory

How to Handle the Whys
Many times, helping children deal with the death of a pet includes answering questions about how and why the animal died. Handling these inquiries depends on many factors including religious background and the age of the child. If you and your family believe in Heaven, then your child will more than likely think that the pet that died went there. However, if you choose to tell your child otherwise, make sure your answer is done in simple terms that he or she will understand. If the pet that died had lived a long life, it's best not focus on the animal's age at the time of passing; the child may equate that to living relatives who are older and fear for their deaths.

Helping your Child Grieve the Death of a Pet
Coping and getting through the grief may involve getting a new pet. It is important not to force a new pet upon the child. Reassure the child that the deceased pet will always hold a special place in the family.

You may want to purchase this book to help your kids understand what it's like to loose a pet.

Finally, give your pet an extra hug and kiss tonight. They really are an important part of the family.


Additional support when loosing a pet, can be found on the Delta Society website.

Jasper, our Magical Alpaca
Friday, August 13, 2010
Sharon Turner is a Pet Partner with her Alpaca, Jasper and shared this heartwarming story with us. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

~ Stephanie

I have a friend who had emergency brain surgery in March and because of complications he has very limited communication and abilities. I recently found out that he had been placed in the Hospice program at the facility. I rushed over to visit him and knew my friend would not be able to communicate with me at all, but I still wanted to see him. I held his hand and told him how Kaylynn (my daughter), myself and Jasper became a Pet Partners team with Delta Society. To my surprise he whispered two words, "see alpaca." As tears swelled my eyes I told him that I would bring Jasper to see him. I checked with the facility and got clearance from the administrator to bring Jasper, as my friend didn't have time on his side.

The next morning I packed Jasper into the truck and made the hour long trip to see my friend. As we walked into the facility, Jasper became an instant celebrity. At least half a dozen people, staff, and family, requested Jasper to visit them too. But I had to visit my friend first. Jasper and I walked into my friend’s quiet room and Jasper walked up to the hospital bed and gently hummed. My friend opened his eyes and reached out for Jasper. Jasper stood very still and welcomed the touch. My friend stroked his soft fleece, tousled his head and I think I saw a weak smile. Then he whispered, "Thank you." At that moment I came to the realization that seeing the alpaca was my friend’s last wish that I was able to fulfill. What a profound emotion.

Afterwards, Jasper and I went and visited other people in the facility. I knew from the start that Jasper was special but I had no idea. We were beckoned into a room of an elderly woman by her son. He said, “Mom’s been very depressed and I think she would enjoy seeing the alpaca.” We walked in and she lit up! She said, "Oh! I love him!" She told me about her many pets at home. Jasper went right up to her bedside and stood very still while she reached out and brushed him. Her son sat in a corner with tears swelling in his eyes and he winked at me. I found out after our visit that she had suffered a stroke and was not moving much, but she sure did brush Jasper for a while!

Next, we visited a woman who was recovering from knee surgery. She hopped right out of bed when she saw us coming into her room! I overheard her physical therapist comment on how well she was getting around today.

In all, we visited 4 people plus the entire staff. Before we left, Jasper and I visited my friend one last time. He didn't wake up again but he did seem very peaceful. Jasper and I drove home very quiet.

I realize now that Jasper is even more special than I thought. I feel a new responsibility for him now. He is magical. I don't want to overwhelm him, but I do want to share him with those who need him most.

Guest Blogger
Sharon Turner

Sometimes it only takes one dog...
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
“I never cease to be amazed by how universal the love of pets truly is - and am humbled that people with so little can still find the means to care for these wonderful companions.” - Perros Project Volunteer Veterinarian, Dr. Brenda Kennedy told me after returning from Peru. Doc Brenda and I have been pals for a few years and have a common love for helping animals and people in need. She introduced me to the Perros Project last year and their mission resonated with me.

I asked Matt Webber, the co-founder of the Perros Project to share why he went to Peru to help street dogs. Here’s his story:

“While traveling Peru in the summer of 2009, my partner Courtney Dillard and I fell in love with the quaint surf town of Huanchaco, Peru. Like the majority of Peruvian towns and cities, however, the charm and beauty were marred by the large number of street dogs in need of proper food and medical attention. Each day there was a new sad face, a dog asking for food or tugging at your heart strings and there is little you feel you can do to help. But sometimes one dog stands out and compels you to do whatever you can.

In our case, her name was Lola. She was an aging black lab mix with an awkward walk due to extreme swelling in one of her hind legs. The series of events that took place when Courtney and I did our best in broken-Spanish to get Lola some medical attention set forth the path our lives would take for the next year. Who knew that this random street dog who followed us for a sunset stroll along a stretch of beach in Huanchaco, Peru would have such a big impact on our lives and the lives of others?

Flash forward 10 months later to July when we’re sitting at the cargo section of the PDX airport waiting with our vet friend Lisa. Her new love, Lucas (a Huanchaco street dog), was on his way to Portland, OR to start a whole new life.

You see, this past June, Courtney and I returned to Huanchaco to help Lola and others like her, except this time we had a plan along with and 15 volunteers who flew down with us to help. We also had an official 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, The Perros Project ~ along with $5,000 dollars we had raised from friends and strangers. Our mission was to help improve a local dog shelter and work with two veterinary clinics who wanted to team with us for a week-long spay/neuter clinic. And it all started with Lola.

Obviously there are so many stories we could tell about our experience returning this past June: the new fence system at the shelter to help increase adoption rates, the 80 animals our team helped to spay and neuter, the number of local people we met when our Street Outreach Team went door-to-door to talk about the animal/human relationship, but the biggest story was that about the hearts of the individuals (animals and people) we met along the way.

It’s easy to glance quickly and assume that nobody cares about these dogs. But scratch the surface just a bit and you find that that simply is not true. Over and over again we found concerned people, responsible owners and lots of Peruvian volunteers willing to help in all kinds of ways. Each day there was new story and another beautiful friendship to be seen.

And Lola? Well, after a few vet visits, Lola still has an issue with her leg because of a localized cancer, but she’s in a much more comfortable space now and being tended to by a loving family. Turns out that the local restaurant whose lettuce beds she had been sleeping in each night was willing to offer her a home. The restaurant’s manager Sondra had become Lola’s official partner in life and the restaurant’s owner Berry (Sondra’s brother-in-law) opened up his home and family to Lola. Considering Lola’s long and lonely struggle, Berry is continually amazed at how much love she had to give and how wonderful Lola is when interacting with his young children.

For Courtney and I, our lives have forever been changed by Lola’s pair of brown eyes. She’s yet another example of the unconditional love and trust that animals possess and more importantly she’s the face that started our new journey in life with the Perros Project.”

This is yet another example of animals changing people’s lives ~ Pets. People. Partnership!
~ Lori

More Long Goodbyes
Monday, August 09, 2010
(*indicates the name have been changed)

In the world of therapy animals, Moose is the Rock Star and I am the Manager. He stands (nearly) still while I fasten his green Pet Partners vest around his shoulders and belly in preparation for our weekly hospital visits.

Moose became our family dog at two-months-old and, initially, his only responsibility was being our puppy. With a chocolate-colored coat, amber eyes, and metronome tail, he is a charmer and the center of our family’s attention. I believe that Moose’s affectionate personality and attentiveness make him an exceptional pet, which is why I enlisted us as volunteers at the Westchester branch of the big city hospital near our home. We completed a refresher obedience course, and after taking a workshop and passing our evaluation, in April 2009, we were registered as a Delta Society Pet Partners team. We now work doing animal assisted activities with non-medically fragile patients.

The hospital assigned us to “A New Tomorrow*,” a residential facility for patients who have been in state psychiatric hospitals for several years and who have serious and persistent mental illness. Moose and I park some distance from the front door and he sniffs the paths that other therapy animal teams must have taken that day. Steering him away from the snack bar, we head toward the unit and wait for the door to be unlocked.

Like an actress rehearsing her lines before the curtain rises, I think about potential subjects that might be engaging to the group. Our work begins once the door opens and we walk into the long hallway.

Usually, a few men sit or sleep on the vinyl chairs and couches that line the walls. While all of the adults who come to the Therapy Animal session are friendly, some are difficult to understand and others are made drowsy from their medicine. Conversation has to start with me.

“Hello, how are you?” I ask. “What’s going on? How was your week?”

“Moose! Moose! Hi, Mary” a few patients call out to us.

Several women congregate near the fishbowl-like office at the end of the corridor. They are dressed, like the men, for comfort. We enter the community room and I sit in one of the plastic chairs scattered about, positioning Moose next to me. We usually talk about the weather, sports, what was for lunch. Although I sometimes talk about my life and family, telling stories about Moose’s antics is usually the biggest crowd pleaser.

Typically, half of the thirty men and women come to our sessions; they get credit for attending, which translates into privileges like buying a Coke at the machine downstairs or taking a walk outside. Some tell me about the dogs they grew up with or the ones they couldn’t care for. From time to time, a patient quietly confides in me that they will leave soon. When some of the “regulars” don’t join us, I wonder if they were released or if they are just not feeling very well that day.

Clara* was afraid of Moose, initially. In her early thirties, she is a large woman with thick, dark hair and bangs that fall in an arc toward her eyes. She watches as we start Moose’s favorite part of the visit: treats. Like a priest offering communion, I circle the room, placing a few bits of kibble in each pair of cupped hands. Some patients ask him to sit before he is given his reward; others just lower their hands close to his snout and seem to tolerate or even enjoy the slobbery result.

I make a second circle to spray everyone’s hands with Burt’s Bees sanitizing formula with witch hazel and aloe. Next comes a chance to brush him with a soft white baby’s brush. Finally, after a little more conversation, we walk around a fourth time so that anyone wanting to hug Moose goodbye can do so. He sometimes rolls on his back and seems to love being adored, like the celebrity he has become. Therapy lasts no more than forty-five minutes.

Over time Clara relaxes around Moose and, one day, tells me she wants to pet him, as long as I hold his head away from her. Two visits later, she decides to try feeding him. Although she jerks her hand away as Moose gobbles the treats, she smiles, pleased with her bravery.

We started visiting A New Tomorrow a year ago and celebrated Moose’s birthday in July with cupcakes that my college-aged son helped me deliver. In December, with the facility’s permission, I bought small red Christmas stockings at CVS and filled them with granola bars, candy and cotton socks. For Valentine’s Day my teenage daughter decorated paper bags (no plastic allowed) and filled them with Hershey’s kisses. Not long after, on a typical Monday visit, Clara appears in the hallway as we walk down with our greetings.

"Hello, Clara, how are you?" I say, stopping to let her pet Moose.

"I’m leaving tomorrow." She whispers, smiling gloriously.

"That’s wonderful. I’m so happy for you. You look like you are feeling really well."

She walks into the room and we start our group session. Hello, treats, Burt’s Bees, brushing, goodbyes. We pause in front of Clara who hugs Moose for a very long time. She holds him close, her long hair covering his back while he stands still and leans into her. I wait, a knot in my throat. I cannot begin to understand what lockdown residency is like for Clara or the others. While it makes me feel hopeful that she is able to leave, it is bittersweet happiness for me as I will miss her and doubt if I will ever see her again. I hope for more long goodbyes.

Mary Dell Harrington
Guest Blogger and Delta Society Pet Partner

Unlike peanut butter & jelly, hot cars and dogs don’t go together
Friday, August 06, 2010
Ahh, summertime! A time to enjoy the sunshine, gatherings with friends, and more playtime outside for your pets. Often times the nice weather makes us want to take our pets along for company. Whether it’s to a friend’s house for a BBQ or to the local park for a dip in the river or down to the local hardware store, we just want to take advantage of the beautiful weather with our furry friends. But sometimes bringing them along for the ride isn’t the best choice.

While our intentions are good, we need to realize not every store is not pet friendly, which means they can’t come inside with us. Then where does that leave your dog? Waiting in the car while you run your errand. This can be bad news and it’s exactly the situation that I came upon this past weekend.

It was a slightly overcast day, with the temperature reaching in the low 70s. I was at an outdoor mall and walked past a car with a big black lab sitting in the front seat. All four windows were cracked about 4 inches, but this dog was panting profusely and seemed very agitated as he jumped from the front to the back over and over. I swore I would call the police if the car was still there when I got back. When I returned 30 minutes later, the car was still there. The sun was starting to peek through the clouds now and I could feel the warmth of the sun, which meant it would get hotter in the car. I looked in the car to see if the dog had a water dish, but found nothing. The dog just looked at me with his big ol’ eyes and his tongue hanging out with salvia dripping from it. At that point, I did what I had to do. I called 911.

The officer arrived within 5 minutes of me calling. He said it didn’t feel that hot outside, but then he stuck his hand in the car and said the interior temperature was way too hot for the dog. He saw a leash on the floor and decided to tie the dog to a nearby tree. He unlocked the door and out came Vincent… that was the name on his tag, which luckily also had a phone number on it. Vincent sprawled his body on the cool grass and gave us both big licks, as if to say thanks.

The officer called the number and reached the husband of the wife who had taken the dog to the dogpark earlier that day. Seems she decided to stop at the mall and figured it was cool enough to leave Vincent in the car. But he may have already been overheated and thirsty from his romp at the park, making the situation in the car even worse. The officer thanked me for calling, and pointed out that I did the right thing. As I drove away, I saw a woman sprinting towards the car. I knew Vincent was going to be ok and that made my heart happy.

Leaving a dog in the car can be lethal even in cooler weather. They can succumb to heatstroke within minutes—even if the car isn't parked in direct sunlight. If you see a dog in distress, contact the authorities right away and if possible, give the dog immediate relief by providing water.

Working at Delta Society has reinforced how important animals are to me. They provide companionship, encourage us to get outside, and can be great “ice breakers” when passing people on the street. But we need to remember to do what’s best for them and sometimes that means leaving them home. Besides, I don’t think they’d have as much fun at the hardware store as my husband does anyway.

~ Stephanie

For more tips on what you can do to protect dogs from the dangers of hot cars, please visit:

It’s all about Pets and People ~ A True Connection
Wednesday, August 04, 2010
Kathy has been a friend of mine for several years. She’s the manager of the Wells Fargo Bank branch near our west coast home. I’m often in there and know many people who regularly do their banking at this particular branch. It’s a very friendly environment and we all tend to chat while doing our banking or waiting to speak with one of the staff. Never ceases to amaze me how quickly people will bond when talking about their pets.

A neighbor walked into the bank recently just as I was leaving and inquired about one of my dogs who’d been ill. Another patron was listening and stopped to ask what type of dog and yep, you guessed it ~ a half hour later five of us (three were complete strangers) were sharing stories of our pets past and current. We continued talking after we’d all finished our transactions and then walked down to the coffee shop to continue our conversation. I now have three new friends who are avid animal lovers. And the bonus is two of the gals want to volunteer with some of the animal rescue organizations that I’m involved with locally. Another example of the amazing power of the human-animal bond in action!

Back to Kathy ~ she’s had to help me with some complicated transactions over the past two years and with all the time we’ve spent together sorting through the finances between countries and states… we’ve been astounded at how similar our backgrounds are with regard to our love of all animals. We both rode horses as kids and dreamed of having one or two (she now has two gorgeous quarter horses who are spoiled rotten). She and I had multiple cats and dogs growing up as well as lots of the ‘pocket pets’ like guinea pigs, mice, gerbils and a bunny or two. We’ve shared stories of our pets’ antics and laughed about how our respective parents allowed us (actually encouraged us) to nurture and care for such wide variety of pets.

Last week when Kathy and I were transferring some funds between two states and I was signing some documents, she told me all about coming home from a trip and how happy her pets were to see her and how all the stress of the trip and traveling just melted away when she saw her two horses and the three dogs (two rambunctious black Labradors and a very sweet Boxer). Kathy’s face lights up and she always has a huge smile on her face when she talks about her pets and how much they mean to me.

So, after bringing the documents home and sitting down to plow through my emails, I found this email from Kathy. It just made my day to read the following:

“Hey Sassy Redhead,

Thank you for always listening to me talk about all my animals when you stop at the bank!!!! Between my cats, dogs and horses I always have something fun going on with at least one of them. I guess I have so many animals because I believe they enrich my family’s life and there’s definitely never a dull moment. My husband always knows when I am ‘up and about’ in the morning because all my cats wait for me to come down stairs and they are always in front of me. It is fun to play with them and only get half way down the stairs because they always stop to wait for me to cuddle and talk to them. Even when I am really tired after a long day, our pets always make me smile. When I come home from work, my dogs are always at the corner of the arena waiting for me. I can be gone for 5 minutes or 5 days and they are always ecstatic to see me. Even if I have had a very stressful or long day at work, the dogs will always put a smile on my face as I come through the gate to get to the house. And, my two horses do the same thing ~ it’s a look and they way they act which I believe is truly unconditional love. No matter what I look like in the morning, which is not always pretty, they nicker at me to say good morning…..or maybe it is “feed me now!!!” Life without my animals would not be complete. They are such an important part of my family!!!

Always great to see you.

Best Regards,
Wells Fargo Bank | 23467 NE Novelty Hill Road | Redmond, WA 98053 | Tel 425-836-2020

This email simply spoke to my heart ~ Kathy’s pets are obviously an integral part of her family and provide comfort and joy to her! It’s all about Pets and People ~ A True Connection.

Do you have a story about animals that have positively impacted your life? If so, we'd certainly like to hear from you. Please send your story to

Delta Society - where therapeutic animals enhance lives daily

~ Lori

The Benefits of Raising Families and Pets Together
Monday, August 02, 2010

This post written by Lisa Poisso was recently spotted on and thought you too might enjoy reading it.

Do kids and pets mix? Most people take this question to mean whether or not kids are old enough to care for pets responsibly and handle them safely, or whether the pets can be trusted not to bite or scratch the children. Others, however, have noticed that the question nuzzles an age-old principle that could groom benefits for both families and the pets who live with them: Animals and people seem to be made for each other -- and removing pets from the family mix may in fact be snipping children's normally empathetic heartstrings.

Historical ties between animals and humans living together as a unit are clear. "The fact that wolves stopped stalking us and we took them into our caves proved to be a miraculous leap of faith that changed our world forever," writes Meg Daley Olmert in her new book, Made for Each Other. Olmert draws on behavioral psychology, neuroscience and anthropology to examine how the human-animal bond developed in the first place, and then questions what might happen when those ties are unnaturally severed. The results look something like what psychiatrist Aaron Katcher calls "the fallout from this sudden interspecies divorce every day in children who are too wild to participate in polite society."

Contact with animals turned out to be the surprise hit in Katcher's treatment of children with severe attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD). His resoundingly successful animal therapy program, launched in the 1990s, sent these kids to the zoo to care for and handle small zoo animals. Counselors and teachers noted a significant decline in the children's negative symptoms, which Katcher attributed to the novelty of the zoo animals as a safe, uncritical point of interest, increased oxytocin levels created by the act of caregiving and the kids' formation of an emotional bond with the animals.

But don't chalk it up to "unconditional love." "Contrary to the romantic myth, these stunning emotional and therapeutic effects are not the product of our pet's 'unconditional love' for us," writes Olmert. Olmert's book wields research that pulls down the sentimentality behind the notion of unconditional love, laying out the science behind the physiological reality of why animals can love us, why we can love them and why that love is so good for everyone it touches.

I spoke recently with Dallas, Texas, nanny Karen Keefe, who believes animals and children are a natural combination for a healthy home. Keefe found over her years in childcare and caring for pets that the tactics she was using were similar -- and helpful -- for both the humans and the pets. The results were so positive that Keefe is currently looking for a childcare or elder care position where she can integrate what she calls "a wonderful lifelong, stable, balanced home serving the best and highest good for this dog, all dogs and humans. "

Key to Keefe's success is her discovery of the potent psychological mechanisms unleashed when we care for and live around animals. As Olmert puts it, "Pets may not be pills, but it turns out they are very strong medicine." I think each of us who peels off the stress of a busy day by wrapping our arms around a furry friend at home can agree: Snuggling with a pet does make life feel a little better all the way around.

Lisa Poisso is an award-winning parenting and family writer who has written about green issues for years.

For more information on how pets can help children and families live healthier and happier lives, click here.


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