Animal Health Foundation Blog
Archive for the ‘Pet Therapy’ Category
Breed: Flat Coat Retriever Mix
Partner: Janell Keider
Piper was just a puppy when she was abandoned in another country. Kind people rescued her, collected donations, and bought Piper a plane ticket to the United States so she could have a safe and loving home. We adopted Piper before she was a year old and could tell that she would be a great therapy dog – she loves people, especially children, and is sweet and gentle. She greets our cats each morning with a wagging tail and lick on their noses. She also loves to race around the backyard, playing “tug” and “chase” with our other dogs. We are so happy that Piper joined our family!
In November, Mission Hospital’s Behavioral Health Unit (located in Laguna Beach, California) opened their doors to a Pet Therapy Program, which has been offered by the hospital as a Community Benefit service to patients for the past 8 years. Over a dozen dedicated Pet Teams have volunteered their time in an effort to support the healing journey for patients, and most recently, two teams have opened their hearts to the behavioral health patients. Recently, staff shared a story of a patient who was significantly changed due to a visit with Mia, who has been a canine volunteer with Mission Hospital for 7 years.
“We had a patient with a diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder who experienced major loss and was having a very difficult time coping. She suffered with thoughts of suicide, insomnia, and severe social isolation. She had these symptoms for days and had not attended any patient groups. While she initially declined pet therapy, further prompting encouraged her to participate. Initially, she simply sat next to Mia, but after a few minutes, she began gingerly petting her and her physical affect began to change. She walked out of the group room with a small smile on her face. From this day until discharge, she became more and more visible on the unit, began sleeping better, and no longer had thoughts of suicide. We are convinced that she would have been here far longer if she hadn’t been given the opportunity to make that initial step to spend some time with Mia.”
It is connections like this one that make our work at Mission a sacred experience and help to bring wholeness to our patients, our co-workers and our community. Many thanks to volunteers Pam and Daleen who take hours from their day to prepare their dogs and spend time at our ministry; without them, these sacred moments would not be possible.
This is what Gracie says about herself:
“My name is Gracie and I am an AKC registered Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. I was born in March, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona. If you think it looks like I’m smiling, you’ve guessed right — I usually am because I’m pretty much happy all the time as long as I have somebody to pay attention to me. I live with my (much) older pet partner, Ben, who is also a Cavalier Spaniel. I love playing with my dog cousins who come to visit as well as meeting new dog friends on my daily walks. But my favorite thing is visiting with people of all ages and sizes. I was made to sit on your lap or play ball with you … and if you happen to have a little doggie cookie to share, I’ll never want to go home!!”
Cloud, my 5-year-old male Ringneck Dove, has been working as a registered therapy animal since October of 2010. He is a popular visitor to a senior day care in Mission Viejo, and he is also certified as a “Reading Education Assistance Dog” (or “Dove”, in his case). In his role as a “Reading Dove”, he visits children in an elementary school classroom on a regular basis, and the children read aloud to him. At the senior day care, Cloud is placed in an open basket, and he is carried from person to person. The seniors are encouraged to reach into the basket and pet him and talk about him. Many of the seniors have owned birds before, but smaller birds (canaries, parakeets) are not as docile and don’t permit handling. Cloud’s gentle demeanor and quiet cooing make them smile. Many of the children Cloud visits have never had a pet. Their first question is always, “Does he bite?” I encourage them to pet him and see that he is very tame and friendly, and soon the students are feeding him seeds or shredded lettuce, and giggling at his attempts to pick up the treats from their palms. Cloud also participates in elementary school presentations about therapy animals.
Cloud was hatched in our home, so he has been handled regularly since he was a few days old. He enjoys riding in the car, going to different places, and meeting new people, so training him to pass the therapy animal test was easy. In the test, animals must be handled by a variety of people and tolerate loud noises and other situations they may encounter during visits. Birds must wear a harness and leash, and must be carried in a basket for their safety. The most difficult part of the preparations was getting the equipment. The harness and leash were available for purchase (“Flightsuit” by Avian Fashions), but the basket and a carrying bag had to be made. Sewing is one of my hobbies, so I designed and made a tote bag with a flexible cage built in, so he could be easily transported from the car to the facility. I got a large basket and sewed in a lining and partial cover, so that he doesn’t try to fly straight up, as doves do not have their wings clipped. Cloud had to learn to stay in the basket for an hour, the typical length of our reading sessions. By sprinkling seeds in the basket and sitting with him, with the suit and leash on, I taught him to stay in the basket quietly
Cloud is registered with AHF Caring Creatures. Although a variety of animals can be registered, including cats, rabbits, birds, mini horses and llamas, most of the therapy animals in the group are dogs. Our senior and school visits are done in a group, with several therapy dogs and Cloud. Many of our dogs are of hunting breeds, so we have to be careful to keep Cloud at a distance. The dogs are too well trained to attack him, but if they are distracted, they cannot do their job properly. Because he is so quiet, the dogs are often not even aware he is in the room with them. Cloud even worked at AHF’s booth at a pet fair, at the same time as a cat and two dogs. None of the other animals even knew he was there, because he didn’t flutter around and make noise. Their quiet demeanor and positive associations make doves ideal therapy animals.
Welcome to AHF Caring Creatures Pet Partners Debbie and Hogie!
Breed: Lhasa Apso/Shih Tzu mix Birthday: December 2006
Hogie is a very quiet and gentle little dog who loves everyone he meets. My family adopted him from the shelter in 2008 at the age of two and because of his easygoing nature, it was easy to see what a perfect therapy dog he would be. He became a certified therapy dog in 2011 and quickly wins over everyone’s hearts with his sweet personality and big brown eyes.
When he is not assisting people with pet therapy, he is a delightful family pet who loves going for rides in the car, seeing new people and places, and generally being included in everything that our family is doing whenever possible.
Click on the link below to read the story!
Casper, a Canine Assistants therapy dog, is special to many of the sick children at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite, but his relationship with one child there was particularly moving and meaningful. Creed, a young patient who spent half his life in the hospital, bonded with Casper in a way his family and caregivers will never forget. “I don’t think he ever saw Casper as a dog,” said the boy’s father, Jon Campbell. WXIA-TV (Atlanta)
ATLANTA, Ga. — There once was a tiny boy with an old soul whose name was Creed. His name meant ‘to believe.’
Creed had a fierce spirit, but a body that battled illness from the day he was born.
His parents speak a language they never wanted to learn — a language of pre leukemia and chromosonal issues and bone marrow transplants.
It was a language that forced Creed to spend half his life in the hospital.
“There’s nothing medically normal about that kid,” says Creed’s mom Stephanie Campbell.
It would seem a bleak existence — the opposite of what childhood should be.
But Casper, a service dog from Canine Assistants, changed all of that.
Casper was the new therapy dog at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite. Creed was one of Casper’s first kids.
The bond was instant. Different.
Casper’s owner and handler Lisa Kinsel says the relationship between these two went way beyond the demands of the job.
There were movies and sleep overs and countless hours spent in Creed’s bed. After a lifetime of illness, a little boy had a best friend.
Creed’s father Jon says, “I don’t think he ever saw Casper as a dog.”
One day creed was near death. Casper came and got in bed with the little boy. Mom Stephanie put her son’s hand on Casper’s paw. His hand began to move. Later a nurse told the family, “That dog just saved your son.”
Creed’s health was restored but then the sickness returned. John and Stephanie could see their little boy was done fighting. Not long after creed died a new litter of puppies was born at canine assistants. They named one for Creed.
It’s an idealized image of childhood — a boy and his dog.
But the love between this boy and this dog was beyond everyone’s understanding. Creed’s parents believe the comfort and love Casper gave to Creed came from God, until the very end.
Creed’s name will live on in another creature who will one day comfort and care for someone else.
And that would make the tiny boy with the old soul very happy.