Archive for the ‘Pet Therapy’ Category

Meet Barbara Murphy’s Pet Partner Callie

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

Callie Photo for AHF Cards

Breed – Golden Retriever

Birthday – December 26, 1998

My name is Callie and I was born to do therapy work! I love everyone I meet. When I was a small puppy in puppy kindergarten, my teacher said that one day I would be a wonderful therapy dog. She was right! I have been doing therapy work since 2001 and I enjoy every minute of it. I like to visit people in hospitals and nursing homes. I also like going to schools and libraries to listen to children read. People say that I am very special and I bring lots of smiles wherever I go.

When I’m not doing my therapy work, I enjoy walks in the park, performing tricks, flyball, dancing, and treats, treats, treats!

Pet Partner Team Roxey and Sandy help Autistic children

Tuesday, March 26th, 2013

Sandy and RoxyRoxey (a Shetland Sheepdog) and her handler, Sandy assist a speech therapist with her autistic clients once a month. The boy is pre-school age and just started regular classes at a regular pre-school.  Sandy has been working with them for about a year.

The mother  of the boy is in the session the whole time taking notes while the therapist works on vocabulary and sentence  structure.  They often try to pick vocabulary words that Roxey can illustrate.  One word he was having particular problems with was “sausage.”  So Sandy took sausage “looking” treats for the boy to feed Roxey.  If he said the word correctly, he got to toss the treat to Roxey.  We’ve also been working on conjugating verbs, so we go through actions like “Roxey is sitting,” and “Roxey sat.”  Sometimes his vocabulary words include things Roxey can wear:  sunglasses, hat, feathers, etc.  For Halloween, “ghost” was a word for the boy, so Roxey came dressed as a ghost.  Another time, “basket” was a word, so  Sandy strapped a basket onto Roxey’s back, and the boy put other vocabulary word items into her basket.  Roxey especially loves sessions when there are food vocabulary words because she often gets to eat.

Sandy and Roxey have just started working with a little girl who loves animals, so Roxey is there to motivate her.  Most of our first session was Roxey being a model for the opposite of the word being taught (over/under, front/back), body parts (leg, ear, nose), and feeding treats to when she got something right.  The girl was being taught to greet people, so Roxey would wave to her and she would say “hello” to Roxey.

Sandy and Roxey love their role to help autistic children

AHF Pet Partner team Jan and Jonah

Monday, February 18th, 2013

During the past year, Jan Haderlie and Jonah, her 5-year-old Shetland Sheepdog, have been valuable partipants in Project Positive Assertive Cooperative Kids (P.A.C.K.) at the University of California -Irvine.  P.A.C.K.  is a federally funded, non-medication research study to examine whether adding therapy dogs in a 12-week cognitive-behavioral group therapy intervention is more effective than traditional cognitive-behavioral group therapy without therapy dogs in improving self-esteem, self-regulation and pro-social behaviors in 7- to 9-year-old children who have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

The P.A.C.K. children have multiple opportunities to bond with Jan and Jonah during their twice-weekly sessions. At each session, children rotate among three stations. The children create arts and crafts projects at Jan and Jonah’s station. The children also have the opportunity to earn the privilege of having one-on-one time with Jan and Jonah during group therapy when they demonstrate on-task behaviors, such as attending to the speaker and making contributions during discussions.

During reading time, the children pair up and read dog stories to each other and to Jonah. Jonah’s impeccable eye contact with the pages of the story amazes the children. One of the children’s favorite P.A.C.K. activities is giving basic commands to their four-legged friends, which demonstrates self-regulation and assertiveness by having a confident voice and a calm body. During this activity, they are also practicing pro-social behaviors by complimenting the dogs for following directions.

P.A.C.K. is extremely grateful to Jan, Jonah and the other Pet Partners teams participating in the project. For more information on the study, visit

Meet Pet Partner Team Suzannah and Lacey

Monday, February 18th, 2013

Suzannah and Lacey have been an AHF Caring Creatures Pet Partner Team since 2012.

AHF Pet Partner teams participate in Ability Awareness Day

Friday, February 15th, 2013

Bathgate Elementary School in Mission Viejo hosted its second annual “All Abilities Day” Feb. 8, giving students the opportunity to get an idea of what it’s like to have disabilities.

Students visited stations that simulated various disabilities and met therapy dogs Jake and Macy.

Guest speakers talked to students about the importance of accepting others with disabilities.

Bathgate Elementary School students take turns petting Jake, led down the line by therapy animal handler and volunteer Joe Frey. 

PHOTO: ISAAC ARJONILLA, ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER Pet therapy volunteer Daleen Comer walks Macy by a line of Bathgate Elementary students. Macy was rescued from Taiwan in October 20 1 0 and brought to the U.S. A year later, she became a therapy dog.

Wanted: Sweet, calm, patient dogs to comfort humans

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

Ninety-five percent of therapy animals with one group that oversees 11,000 teams in 14 countries are dogs, but not all dogs are right for the job. Animals that comfort people in times of illness or trauma must be calm amid sometimes chaotic situations. Desensitization, training and certification are important steps for the owner and animal in the process of becoming a therapy team

By Associated Press,

Feb 05, 2013 06:30 PM EST

APPublished: February 5

PHOENIX — The children buzz in excitement, boisterous and barging in, their little hands covering seemingly every part of the Australian shepherd’s body.

Callie doesn’t flinch, calmly lying at the center of this circle of chaos, lightly panting with what appears to be a smile.

 Dogs don’t really smile, but this one sure was at ease.

“She loves the attention,” Callie’s handler Jeanette Wood said during the visit to the Child Crisis Center in Phoenix. “She eats this stuff up.”

Callie makes calm amid the clutter look easy, but it’s not.

Being a therapy dog — or cat or horse or whatever — like Callie takes a special kind of animal, one with just the right temperament and personality. It also takes training, not just for the animal, but for the handler.

“You have to be a certain kind of person and have a certain kind of dog to do this,” said Pam Gaber, founder of Gabriel’s Angels, an Arizona-based nonprofit that delivers pet therapy to abused and at-risk children.

Therapy animals are used at hospitals, nursing homes, schools, rehabilitation centers, institutions and in one-on-one sessions with therapists. They also have been brought in to comfort victims of mass-casualty events, including the Newtown, Conn., school shooting and the Tucson shooting that targeted former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

They come from a wide range of species, from cats and rabbits to barnyard varieties like horses, goats and pigs. Exotic birds, hamsters and Guinea pigs, even llamas and alpacas also have been used to comfort people of all ages.

The most popular and recognizable therapy animals, not surprisingly, are dogs. And it’s not even close.

Pet Partners, a nonprofit organization that promotes positive animal interactions as a therapeutic resource, has 11,000 therapy teams in 14 countries and 95 percent of their animals are dogs.

“Dogs are social by nature, but they’re also accustomed to going with us, going out and meeting people,” Bill Kueser, vice president of marketing for Pet Partners, based in Bellevue, Wash. “We take them on walks, we go with them to the pet store to get dog food. We integrate them in our lives in sort of a wider spectrum of activities than other pets and species are integrated.”

A wide variety of breeds is used. Gabriel’s Angels, which serves 13,000 children in Phoenix and Tucson, has everything from a 4-pound Chihuahua to a 190-pound English mastiff, though most of its animals are golden retrievers, labs or a mix with either breed.

But not every dog is suitable for therapy.

The key is temperament. Therapy dogs need to be relatively even-keeled and enjoy being around people.

If a dog cowers around new people, is too timid or overbearing, or gets jumpy when there’s a lot of commotion, it probably won’t be a good fit as a therapy dog.

“Sometimes the person wants it more than the dog,” said Gaber, who started Gabriel’s Angels after taking her Weimaraner, Gabriel, to the Crisis Nursery in Phoenix in 2000. “If they’re in the corner cowering, let them stay home and sleep on your bed during the day if that’s what they want.”

Abused children find comfort in furry friend

Thursday, December 27th, 2012

At the Snohomish County Courthouse, child interview specialist Gina Coslett of Dawson Place shows off Harper Lea, a 2-year-old lab trained to comfort children who are being asked to talk about crimes, or testify in a trial. Harper is a new addition to Dawson Place, which is the county's child advocacy center.

Harper is there as young victims of abuse talk about what happened

By Diana Hefley, Herald Writer
Harper is a dainty blonde with a heart for service — and chew toys.
Last month, the 2-year-old Labrador retriever started working at Dawson Place, the county’s child advocacy center that serves more than 1,000 abused children a year.
Harper is a special pooch whose job is to offer kids comfort at times when they may be scared, confused and uncomfortable.
She snuggles with children who are asked to recount horrific crimes committed against them. Her coat often soaks up their tears. Harper senses when kids need to be nuzzled or when a good dog trick will chase away the hurt.
Children often leave her side, saying, “I think she loves me. I think she’s going to miss me.”
Since she was a puppy, Harper has been raised to be a service dog. She received extensive training through the California-based Canine Companions for Independence.
Her handler, child interview specialist Gina Coslett had been waiting almost a year to be paired with Harper. Coslett was convinced that she wanted a canine partner after working with another service dog named Stilson.
Stilson, a stocky black Labrador, works in the Snohomish County Prosecutor’s Office and has helped out at Dawson Place.
When he came to the office in 2006, Stilson was only the second service dog in the nation used by prosecutors.
He was so good at his job that people were convinced that Dawson Place also should use a service dog to help child victims.
The center offers centralized assistance for physically and sexually abused children. Medical personnel, counselors, advocates, state caseworkers, prosecutors and police are available in the same building to help streamline assistance to children and their families.
Children and teens receive free medical exams, mental health assessments and counseling. The center also houses detectives and prosecutors who investigate crimes against children.
Now through a partnership, the county’s law enforcement agencies all pay for Coslett’s salary and Harper’s expenses, said Mary Wahl, the executive director at Dawson Place.
Harper lives with Coslett and has become a part of the family. She’s even teaching Coslett’s other dog, Duca, a miniature Pinscher and rat terrier mix, some much-needed manners.
“They really are best friends,” Coslett said.
Harper loves to play, chase balls and buddy around with other dogs, but when her work vest is on she’s all business.
As a forensic interview specialist, it’s Coslett’s job to ask children about alleged crimes, either committed against them or witnessed by them. She must remain neutral and disconnected from the emotions that often fill the room during these interviews. She can’t hug the child or offer them any comforting words. There is no parent with the child and Coslett isn’t a therapist. That’s not her role.
“It’s so hard not to reach out, whether I believe them or not,” said Coslett, a mom and grandmother.
That’s where Harper comes in.
The friendly pooch greets the children and sits next to them while Coslett asks questions. She lays her head in their laps. Small hands pet her shiny coat. Sometimes it is easier for children to talk to her about their hurt than to the adult in the room. Harper won’t leave their side until Coslett gives the command.
Coslett said it is remarkable to see the dog follow a child’s cues. She senses when to get closer without being told. Harper can smell stress and fear.
“She knows she’s there to comfort,” Coslett said. “She takes over and knows what to do.”
The kids also like her tricks. She can turn off lights, give a high-five and carry her own leash. It’s heartening to hear a child’s laugh or see him smile after hearing about his pain in such detail, Coslett said. Harper provides some of that healing.
The Labrador was named after Harper Lee, the author of “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
The book reflects on justice, doing the right thing and love, Coslett said. Harper seemed like a fitting name for a dog with so much heart.

Liz and Angel still making smiles after moving away

Monday, December 24th, 2012

I wanted to give AHF an update on Angel and I since moving from Orange County.  We started as a pet partner team in 2009 with Delta Society/ AHF.  We are still current with AHF and visit through Valley Humane Society in Pleasanton, CA and ARF Pet Hug Pack in Walnut Creek, CA.

We visit the Pleasanton Library for the Paws to Read program and Marilyn Ave Elementary School Library for VHS.

We visit Hope Hospice and the Kaleidoscope After School Program for children with disabilities – Easter Seals in Dublin, CA.

I feel so blessed and honored to be able to represent AHF and bring happiness to children in all of these programs with my beautiful Rhodesian Ridgeback pet partner, Angel.


Liz Stewart

Paisley bored at OCTA event

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

Every fall, OCTA invites therapy and service dogs and handlers to ride OCTA buses to Knotts Berry Farm and enjoy the park.  This is wonderful continued training for everyone.

Laurel Shulman’s AHF Caring Creatures Pet Partner, Paisley, takes it in stride.  I’d say she’s just plan “non-plused” with the whole experience!  What a dog!

The FBI’s first therapy dog

Monday, November 5th, 2012

Dolce is an 8-year-old German Shepherd/Siberian Husky mix who works for the FBI. He’s not your typical K9 officer. He doesn’t sniff out drugs or bombs, or work on crime scenes in the traditional role. Instead he calms people with his lovable nature and listens as they speak. Dolce is the Bureau’s one and only therapy dog.

His handler and owner Rachel Pierce, is a child psychologist. She joined the FBI five years ago, having previously worked for the Department of Defense and law enforcement. She got Dolce in 2004 from a local shelter because she was looking for a puppy she could train to be a service dog, as she suffers from rheumatoid arthritis.

“I thought it would be nice to have a dog that did some things around the house for me when my symptoms flared up,” she said. “There are days I can’t move or even lift a sheet,” says Pierce.

Dolce easily passed his service-dog training. When it became clear to Pierce how much Dolce loved people she thought he could be an excellent therapy dog as well. She spent several years training him, and he graduated with flying colors. “He’s a good service dog, but he’s an amazing therapy dog,” says Pierce.

The pair now work in the Bureau’s K9-Assisted Victim Assistance Program together. They work in the field with victims of a wide range of crimes such as child pornography, kidnapping cases, violent robberies, and white-collar crime cases as well as death notifications. With his lovable personality, Dolce excels at comforting crime victims and their families.

Dolce works for Victim Services at the FBIDolce also goes to scenes of violent crime, to de-escalate the chaos and stress of the situation. Just the presence of a dog can produce a calming effect. “It can lower blood pressure and make you feel more relaxed,” explains Pierce. A calm witness can better help investigators with information about the crime.

Having seen the positive influence Dolce has had on victims and their families, she suggested a therapy-dog program to leadership, who embraced the idea. Pierce then set about to create and implement a therapy dog program. It became the first of its kind for the Bureau.

Last year, Rachel Pierce and Dolce received the FBI Director’s Award for Excellence for “distinguished service for assisting victims of crime.” Dolce is not retiring just yet, but Pierce is training her new puppy, Kevlar, to take over Dolce’s important work. Pierce also hopes to see the therapy dog program expanded to other FBI offices. “I know a lot of other victim specialists around the country who would be interested in training and working with a therapy dog. I would love to see that happen.”