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magster

Palm Bay, Florida

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Posted: 04/26/06 11:17am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

I'm not trying to brag, here, but two of the three dogs that travel with us for months at a time are nationally certified by Therapy Dogs Inc. We take McDuff, the Cairn terrier, and BlacJac, our young Lab, to nursing and retirement homes, etc.
We thought if we are stuck for a few days in the rain and bored, we can call a local nursing home wherever we are in the U.S. and ask if they would like a visit.
Has anyone done this?
Cheers,


Magster

2 retirees
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Nedra

New Mexico

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Posted: 04/26/06 11:55am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

I don't have any certified therapy dogs now but up until two years ago I had 3. I was also a Delta Society evaluator and instructor until recently. I did do some nursing home visits while we traveled and it was nice. I'm also a certified hospice volunteer but it was hard to get any hospice volunteering done while traveling because it really requires a committment to spend ongoing time with them rather than hit or miss visits. I'm hoping that when I retire to certify my shelties and then follow up with my hospice volunteering again. I doubt that I'll do the evaluations and training again because it's just toooooo tiring but I do enjoy the visits.


Alan & Nedra
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HD Riders

Southwest OH

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Posted: 04/26/06 03:12pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Never done it but I think it's a wonderful use of your "down time". Have you considered expanding to childrens hospitals?


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Veronica

Virginia

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Posted: 04/26/06 04:46pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

I would love to do that with Jake...our 7 month old puppy. Right now he's still fairly exuberant and mouthy, but all in all, he's the most gentle, laid back 7 month old puppy I've ever seen. I think he'd be perfect for it.


'96 Roadtrek 210 Popular

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Crowe

Merrimack, NH

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Posted: 04/26/06 05:52pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

SIL has had a number of labs certified as therapy dogs and a few more that have been certified as guide dogs. The breeds we lean toward don't lend themselves to being assistance dogs.


I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be Douglas Adams

RV-less for now but our spirits are still on the open road.

juliev

SE Minnesota

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Posted: 04/26/06 07:20pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Your dogs don't necessarily need to be specially trained to visit nursing homes. They just need to be up to date on shots, and know basic commands like sit, stay, down, etc. Check with the activities director at tne nursing home closest to you. Most would love to have visitors!

We visit the local nursing home with our 2 rat terriers and our poodle - all about 3 years old. They seem to instinctively know which folks prefer just a nice quiet lick on the hand and which will enjoy their normal exhuberant butt-wiggling happy dance greeting. They always get lots of loving and attention (and too many treats) and it's always hard to get out the door when it's time to go home.


Julie
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magster

Palm Bay, Florida

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Posted: 04/28/06 03:22pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

BCSnob wrote:

Maggie,

Thank you for your efforts with your dogs. Keep up the good works.

Mark


You are most welcome, Mark. It is our pleasure. And the dogs seem to enjoy it even more than we do.
Maggie

magster

Palm Bay, Florida

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Posted: 04/27/06 09:25pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

HD Riders wrote:

Never done it but I think it's a wonderful use of your "down time". Have you considered expanding to children's hospitals?


Certainly, and we do: Our guys can go anywhere...daycare centers, children's homes, et al.
The beauty of having them nationally certified by Therapy Dogs Inc. is that they are covered by a very large liability policy in case of an "accident." There is virtually no chance that either of our dogs would "bite" anyone intentionally. But could a claw accidentally scratch someone while shaking hands or a tooth put a tear in fragile elderly skin if something caused their heads to whip around suddenly? Absolutely.
Dogs have to be a minimum of a year old and pass a test that involves three visits to facilities. Of course, they have to have basic training, get along well with other animals and be certified healthy by your vet..
Check out http://therapydogs.com It explains the entire program.
Cheers,
Maggie

Nedra

New Mexico

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Posted: 04/28/06 11:20am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Maggie is correct. All therapy dogs need to be at least 1 year old before they can be evaluated and certified by most organizations. Delta Society www.deltasociety.org, one of the oldest program around also requires that you must have had your dog for at least 6 months.

Most nursing homes do not require certification but I always urge people to do this before any visits, especially nursing homes. REsidents are so frail and their skin is so thin that the least touch of a dog's paw could tear their skin. Without certification from a national organization you have no liability coverage.

I also strongly encourage anyone who wants to do this to get some training on the proper techniques of working with your dog, especially if you are taking them into a health care facility. When I started the program at our local hospital every team had to go through training to learn how to visit safely. Even with that I still had some handlers who forgot what they learned and made mistakes...such as not watching her dog closely enough and having a wheel chair run over it's tail....Visiting with your pet is not as easy as you may thing!!!!

When I evaluated teams for Delta Society I required that they take this class BEFORE I would evaluate them. If they didn't want to take the class I referred them to another evaluator. Everyone who wanted to participate in the pet therapy program at the hospital also had to take this class before they were accepted into the program. Everyone one of them came back to me later and agreed that they were glad they took the class.

Even with taking a hands-on class, all new teams starting in the hospital went out with a mentor on several visits until the mentor certified them as safe to visit independently. Everyone agreed that it was a great idea and not one of them felt confident in visiting on their own initially. IT's very stressful on the dogs especially and most people just don't realize this and don't notice the calming signals enough to know when their dog is starting to get stressed until it's too late. I had one team where the handler didn't pay close enough attention to her dog's calming signals and he finally ended up urinating right in front of the nurses station...she was so upset because she didn't she wasn't "proactive" which is what I always stress. IT finally got her attention and she learned...the hard way!

I'm not sure exactly how the other program works but when Delta evaluates we classify teams at different skill levels based on the evaluation of their skills working together as a team. Teams certified as "complex" can visit anywhere, including regular and childrens inpatient hospital, ER's, rehab center. Teams certified as the lowest level, novice, would be ALL new teams and those teams who have not developed the skills necessary to work in a more complex environment would only be able to go to environments that are stable, routine environments such as a nursing home. Newer teams and others certified at novice usually do well in hospital waiting rooms (amazing stuff can happen there), outpatient clinic areas in the hospital.

One of the things I recommend to people interested in doing this is to get permission to take your dog into some stores where the environmental factors may help desensitize the dog and help the handler work with them....we used home depot (the hussle and bussle, equipment noises, paint smells which help desensitize to hospital and nursing home smells) is a great place to train. We also got Target to agree to let us train our dogs there but probably would not let you in unless you were part of a program that got special approval. Of course you must get permission and when we did training for our program each of our dogs had a vest that said "therapy dog in training, please pet me". It was great training!

BCSnob

Middletown, MD

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Posted: 04/28/06 05:16am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Maggie,

Thank you for your efforts with your dogs. Keep up the good works.

Mark


Mark & Renee
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