Archive for the ‘Pet Therapy’ Category

Retiring therapy dog “graduates” alongside students

Monday, June 10th, 2013

High School Therapy DogPrince, a 9-year-old golden retriever, is retiring after nearly five years of helping students at Portage High School in Illinois, and the occasion is being marked in traditional high school fashion. Prince’s photo was included in the annual yearbook, and he’ll join graduates in this weekend’s ceremony sporting a custom cap and gown. Bred by Lutheran Church Charities, Prince lives with his handler, school guidance counselor Tim Kunstek. “It’s pretty phenomenal how much the kids love him,” said Kunstek. Yahoo/Shine (6/6)

One very furry high school graduate was honored this week with a yearbook photo of his own.

Prince “the therapy dog,” bred by Lutheran Church Charities is a 9-year-old golden retriever who works in the guidance office at Portage High School in Indiana. He’s retiring and as a parting gift, he had a professional photo taken and published alongside the class of 2013.

“We’ve never done anything like this but it was a nice way to say goodbye to Prince,” Melissa Deavers-Lowie, Portage High School’s yearbook adviser, told Yahoo! Shine. “Parents and students thought it was so cute and funny. And on Sunday, he’ll lead the graduating class of 2013 onto the football field for the ceremony.” Naturally, he’ll be dressed for the part, wearing a custom-made red cap and gown.

“Prince comes to school and works with me in therapy groups,” Tim Kunstek, Portage High School’s guidance counselor and Prince’s handler, told Yahoo! Shine. “It’s pretty phenomenal how much the kids love him.”

Prince, who lives with Kunstek and his family in Portage, has worked a 9-5 gig for the past 4.5 years. Every day, he rides to school with Kunstek and spends his morning greeting students as they arrive at school. He also sits in on counseling sessions with Kunstek and his students, and patrols the hallways, making sure kids are going to class. During lunch, he hangs out in the cafeteria. “Kids would sit on the floor and feed him Tater Tots and other treats, but he started gaining weight, so we’ve scaled back on that,” said Kunstek. And Prince travels for work: In the wake of the tragic shootings in December at Sandy Hook Elementary School, he was on hand to ensure the children had a smoother transition back to school. “The kids at Sandy Hook loved him and all the other therapy dogs so much that Lutheran Church Charities is now trying to raise money for therapy dogs at Sandy Hook,” said Kunstek.

At the end of a long day, Prince heads home with Kunstek for dinner. Upon his retirement, he’ll remain with Kunstek and work part-time, possibly with kids. And he won’t be forgotten: His Facebook page boasts more than 1,500 likes and he keeps his friends updated with photos of his life at school and at home.

But Portage High School won’t be without a therapy dog for long. Isaiah, a 1-year-old golden retriever, is in training to be Prince’s replacement. “There’s something really calming about golden retrievers; they have a big effect on people,” said Kunstek.

Research explores the ways dogs help people heal

Monday, June 10th, 2013

therapy dogIn findings that support what many animal owners already know, Washington State University researchers conclude that spending time with dogs is good for people. So good, in fact, that canine companions can help address mental health disorders among humans. The study looked at teens in residential treatment centers for substance abuse. The participants’ mood and attentiveness improved after spending time with dogs, and symptoms of depression, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder dropped dramatically. Researcher Lindsay Ellsworth said canine companionship may stimulate the release of opioids. Discovery (6/7)

Dogs may help to correct certain human mental health disorders by beneficially affecting brain chemistry and function, a new study suggests.

The research shows how interacting with dogs improves mood among teenagers living in residential treatment centers. In this case, the teens were in therapy for drug or alcohol abuse.

“We suggest that the dog interaction activities and/or the dog itself could potentially serve as a non-drug stimulus that may heighten the adolescents’ response to naturally occurring stimuli therefore potentially helping to restore the brain’s normal process,” said Lindsay Ellsworth, who led the research.

Ellsworth, a doctoral candidate at Washington State University, brought dogs from the Spokane Humane Society to the Excelsior Youth Center, also in Spokane. Teen participants were all males.

During daily recreation time at Excelsior, some of the teens played pool, video games or basketball. Another group interacted with the dogs, by brushing, feeding and playing with them. Before and after the activities, the teens filled an assessment used to scale and study emotion.

 Teens who spent time with dogs experienced heightened joy, improved attentiveness and serenity. Symptoms for participants being treated for ADHD, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder dramatically decreased.

Ellsworth suspects that social companionship with dogs may stimulate the release of opioids, psychoactive chemicals that can relieve pain and promote pleasurable feelings. Certain drugs — legal and illegal — bind to opioid receptors in the brain, but the doggy-produced high is natural with no side effects.

Repeated drug use can significantly alter opioid systems, leaving the person feeling lonely or depressed. Social companionship with dogs appears to help alleviate these negative states.

“The relationship between humans and dogs has been in existence for thousands of years,” Ellsworth explained. “They actively seek out their owner’s attention and, from the human perception, they provide displays of affection.

She described how one teen at the center with behavioral problems benefited from the animals.

“During his first couple of encounters with the dogs, he had to learn how to control his behavior in order not to startle the dogs,” she said, adding that “his tone and voice eventually became quieter, his stroke softer, his moves more calculated versus spontaneous, and he appeared to become more aware of himself and how he was acting.”

After sessions with the dogs, his interactions with staff improved, becoming “positive and productive.”

“It could be a really novel, cost-effective and beneficial complement to traditional treatments,” said animal behaviorist Ruth Newberry about using dogs to help treat substance abuse. “This could be a win-win innovation for everyone involved, including the dogs.”

Jaak Panksepp, chair of Animal Well-Being Science at WSU, added, “This is wonderful research, and highlights how companion animals can promote therapy with teenagers who have emotional problems.”

Ellsworth suspects that dogs similarly benefit the mental health of adults, children and seniors too. Interaction with cats likely also stimulates opioid release, particularly for people who are already feline fanciers.

AHF Caring Creatures Pet Partner Teams

Thursday, May 30th, 2013

Reading Dog 3

Teams Participate in R.E.A.D. Program

Click link above to see more!

Therapy animals can be the best medicine

Thursday, May 16th, 2013

Therapy dogs have been shown to decrease cortisol levels in children with autism and ameliorate pain in chronic pain patients, according to this report. The video features the story of how a therapy dog helps one war veteran cope with severe pain and physical therapy after debilitating injuries incurred when he stepped on an explosive device. WFTV-TV (Orlando, Fla.)

BACKGROUND: Pet therapy is a broad term that includes animal-assisted therapy and other animal-assisted activities. Animal-assisted therapy is a growing field that uses dogs or other animals to help people recover from or better cope with health problems, such as heart disease, cancer and mental health disorders. (SOURCE:

WHAT IS ANIMAL ASSISTED THERAPY?: Animal assisted therapy (AAT) uses trained animals to enhance an individual’s physical, emotional, and social well-being, thus improving self-esteem, reducing anxiety and facilitating healing. The use of AAT reportedly dates back to the 1940s, when an army corporal brought his Yorkshire terrier to a hospital to cheer wounded soldiers. There was such a positive response that the dog continued to comfort others for 12 more years. (SOURCE: /)

BENEFITS: Animal-assisted therapy can significantly reduce pain, anxiety, depression, and fatigue in people with a range of health problems:

  • Children having dental procedures
  • People receiving cancer treatment
  • People in long-term care facilities
  • People hospitalized with chronic heart failure
  • Veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder

And it’s not only the ill person who reaps the benefits. Family members and friends who sit in on animal visits say they feel better, too. Pet therapy is also being used in nonmedical settings, such as universities and community programs, to help people deal with anxiety and stress. (SOURCE:

RISKS FACTORS: The biggest concern, particularly in hospitals, is safety and sanitation. Most hospitals and other facilities that use pet therapy have stringent rules to ensure that the animals are clean, vaccinated, well trained and screened for appropriate behavior. It’s also important to note the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has never received a report of infection from animal-assisted therapy. (SOURCE:

Therapy dogs help Texas school children cope after explosion

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

Texas Therapy DogsAfter a blast at a Texas fertilizer plant destroyed West Intermediate School, therapy dogs were on hand to help the students transition back to school at a new location. The explosion occurred after children had been sent home for the day. Counselors and donations are also helping the children and parents cope. The Dallas Morning News (free content)

By Eva-Marie Ayala The Dallas Morning News

West youngsters returned to school today, chasing each other on the play ground and skipping into borrowed portable buildings, as the town tried to find some semblance of daily routine.

The front office staff at West Elementary School juggled phone calls from parents and well wishes wanting to send supplies and donations.

“It was very much like the first day of school here with mommas and daddies hugging their babies a little longer when they dropped them off,” superintendent Marty Crawford said.

The elementary school has about 300 more students than usual as it accommodates classes from the intermediate school that was destroyed in the deadly blast.

Some parents and volunteers walked children to class. Each class had at least one counselor in the room to help address student needs if necessary.

“They are having kids draw how they feel when they may be having trouble expressing themselves,” Crawford said.

Donations and supplies have poured in from districts, churches and groups across Texas.

Therapy dogs were on hand, received with giggles and warm strokes from students.

“This one is the softest,” said kindergartener Lesley as she petted Moses.

Despite the sadness, many found solace that the deadly blast did not happen just a few hours earlier when hundreds of children would filled nearby classrooms.

West Intermediate School, built just across the railroad tracks from the fertilizer plant less than half a mile away, is a complete loss. The adjacent middle school and the high school have structural damage.

Unusual therapy animals make patients of all ages smile

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

According to the AVMA, therapy animals enhance people’s physical, social, cognitive and emotional function, but what’s important to the patients who encounter Napoleon the alpaca and Rojo the llama is that the animals make them smile. Lori Gregory of Mtn Peaks Therapy Llamas and Alpacas in Vancouver, Wash., brings the pair to visit Providence Child Center in Oregon and other health care facilities, and she calls the outreach an “addiction.” Social worker Kelly Schmidt expressed gratitude: “I never realized the power animals have to bring healing and joy to people like this.” CBS News (4/9)

Therapy animals like dogs, cats and horses are sometimes brought into health care facilities to help people suffering from illnesses or physical conditions boost their health and happiness.

Llamas and alpacas: Portland’s fluffiest therapists

At least one Oregon children’s hospital is now employing two unique therapy animals to help patients smile: an alpaca named Napoleon, and a llama named Rojo (see slideshow to the left for more pictures).

CBS affiliate KOIN in Portland, Ore., reports the unique pair light up every room they enter at the hospital.

“I never realized the power animals have to bring healing and joy to people like this,” said Kelly Schmidt, a social worker at Providence Children’s Center in Oregon. “I truly believe they are given a purpose more than just entertainment.”

The animals even ride the elevators (as seen in the video above).

Rojo is an “old pro” at making children happier, according to Schmidt. His owner, Lori Gregory, operator of Mtn Peaks Therapy Llamas and Alpacas in Vancouver, Wash., told the station that once at a local fair someone suggested her huggable llama become a therapy animal. The rest was history, and Gregory said like the patients, she too feels a rush when she introduces her animals — which are often dressed in funny hats and other silly outfits — at hospitals and other medical facilities.

“That’s why it started giving me chills and that’s when it kind of became an addiction,” she told KOIN 6 News. “When you realize that they have this amazing ability to create a natural response therapeutic-wise to get people to do things they normally wouldn’t do.”

Her stable also includes two other llamas named Smokey and Beni, and two more alpacas named Eduardo and Jean-Pierre.

On its website, Mtn Peaks says its animals have made more than 650 therapeutic visits to patients since the organization was founded in 2007.

Rojo has grown a following, even getting his own Facebook fan page.

 Therapy animals: Doggie docs, horse helpers, and more

Therapy animals, or animal-assisted therapy, is designed to promote improvement in human physical, social, emotional, or cognitive function, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). Therapy can occur in a group setting or individually, and can benefit patient populations from the young to elderly, to those in hospitals, nursing homes, assisted-living homes and rehabilitation facilities.

Other examples of more unique therapy animals include miniature horses, elephants (which have been used in Thailand to help some children with autism), helper monkeys and animals with disabilities.

Meet Amy Bourne’s Pet Partner, Jonas

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013



Breed:  Shepherd/Collie Mix

Birthday:  Unknown

Weight:  67 pounds

Human/Partner:  Amy

 Hi, my name is Jonas.  I am a very handsome and sweet dog.  My owner found me at a rescue center in September 2008 when I was just one and a half years old, and immediately knew I was meant to be a part of her family.  I have been a therapy dog since October 2009.  I love to meet new people of any age, especially if I get loved on and scratched behind my ears.  Maybe we can be friends too?

Meet Keith Hicks’ Pet Partner, Dior

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013


Breed:                Silken Windhound

Birthday:          April 13, 2008

Partner:             Keith

 Silkens are the first American Sighthound and still quite rare (1300 in t he world).   Dior is long-legged, slender and built for speed.  Dior thinks he is a lapdog and has never met anyone (person or animal) that he doesn’t like.  He loves to be with people.

 He has earned conformation titles in 4 different kennel clubs and Best in Show.  He is also the Lifetime Champion Silken Windhound in the sport of lure coursing.  Silkens love to chase so these activities offer enrichment and support their natural drive and tendencies.

Meet Sue Dalton’s Pet Partner, Caleb Wyatt

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013


Breed: Miniature Schnauzer

Birthday: January 22, 2008

Weight: 33 pounds

Human Buddy: Sue Daulton


My name is Caleb Wyatt. I am a momma’s boy but I am very affectionate, good natured and friendly.  I love to practice agility and mom is teaching me rally sport too!   I am hoping one day that I can work towards becoming a disaster relief dog.  But, today I am here to put a smile on your face and bring you lots of love, joy and comfort.  

Meet Susannah Perkins’ Pet Partner, Cheka

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013


Breed: Shi Tzu/Pug Mix

Color: Brown and White

Birthday: 10/15/2006

Weight: 17 lbs.

Human Handler: Susannah


Enthusiastic is the word that best describes Cheka.  She enjoys walks, car rides, the park and the beach. She even watches TV, especially if it is an animal show. Cheka is a surprisingly fast runner and she like to run circles around the bigger dogs in the neighborhood. Cheka loves people and being the center of attention.  Her name means laughter in Swahili and with her combination of looks and personality Cheka brings laughter into the lives of many.