Archive for the ‘Pet Therapy’ Category

Meet Our Newest Pet Partner – Gracie

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014

Gracie McHolmCongratulations Sandy McHolm and Gracie who are the AHF’s newest Caring Creatures Pet Partner Team!

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, Therapy Dove

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

cloud 3 READBy Daleen Comer

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 4 with older couple 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 6 beauty shot (2) 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.

Cloud 1 in Tux (2)


Meet Cutie Hogie – Debbie Pfeiffer’s Pet Partner!

Saturday, February 1st, 2014

Hogie Pfeiffer

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.

AHF Pet Partner Team Featured in OC Register

Saturday, December 21st, 2013

Rita, Don & MochaRita and Don Tayenaka, with their black lab, Mocha, are featured in the below article about their visits to Children’s Hospital of Orange County and Mission Hospital, both in Mission Viejo.

Click on the link below to read the story!

Print Article_ Four-legged friend raises patients’ spirits

Dog’s connection with terminally ill child will never be forgotten

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

Casper and CreedCasper, 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.

Children with autism improve communication using horses and iPads

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

New is meeting old as iPads and horses have been incorporated into a new approach to helping children with autism communicate. In the program, called Strides, the children ride horses and also learn speech and language skills using applications on their iPads. The combination has helped unlock new ways for the kids and their families to communicate, with parents reporting their first-ever two-way conversations with their children. Yahoo/Asian News International

Washington, Sept 15 (ANI): A new study has revealed that children with autism can improve their verbal communications skills with the help of horses and iPads.

Southern Tier Alternative Therapies, Inc. (STAT), together withTina Caswell, a clinical faculty member in Ithaca College’s Department of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, has combined equine therapy and assistive technology through an exclusive program called Strides.

The Strides program puts children on horseback and gives each family iPads equipped with speech-generating applications.

Caswell and her team of Ithaca College graduate students provide intensive, highly customized training and ongoing support. The unique therapeutic approach has helped children reach significant breakthroughs in communication, both verbally and through effective use of the device.

Caswell said that it’s the first time the children have been on horseback, the first time many of them are using iPads with speech software, and more important, the first time they’ve had any kind of access to self-expression.

She said that parents also told her that it’s the first time they’ve been able to have a two-way conversation with their kids.

The researchers found that children are doing more than requesting food and toys and for the first time, they are telling narratives and sharing feelings.

Each child participating in the program is given an iPad to be used as a speech-generating device. Participants and their parents are then trained by the Strides team and the Ithaca College students and faculty to continuously update new communication opportunities on their devices. (ANI)

AHF Pet Partner Orientation – October 12, 2013

Friday, September 20th, 2013

This Orientation is a mandatory step in the process of becoming an AHF Caring Creatures Pet Partners Team. AND it is the last one of the 2013 calendar year.

In order to attend this meeting, you must have successfully completed the Pet Partners Handlers Online Course at

In addition, pre-registration for this meeting is required.

For more information, contact



Acacia Comer and Pet Partner Bonnie

Monday, August 26th, 2013

Acacia Comer and BonnieBonnie is a Shetland Sheepdog (also known as a “Sheltie”).

Meet Alyce Sumitra and Pet Partner Max!

Monday, August 26th, 2013

Alyce Sumita and MaxMax is a Basenji and loves to participate in all sorts of dog sports!

Therapy Dog helps calm dentists’ patients

Monday, August 19th, 2013

dog and dentist2Molly’s contributions to the field of dentistry are often acknowledged with a smile and a pat on the head.

On most days, the 4-year-old cocker spaniel roams Applewood Family Dental in Woodbury, MN waiting to be summoned to comfort a fidgety patient.

Some people are so averse to dental work that they regularly skip cleanings or push back appointments, Dr. Brian Kraby said. To help address the problem, he decided to bring in Molly to help ease patients’ minds as they sat in his chair.

Therapy dogs long have taken part in similar programs to counter anxiety and depression in schools, libraries, hospitals and nursing homes. But Kraby said he believes Applewood is the first dental office in the state to adopt the practice.

“If that’s going to help other people for probably more traumatic situations in life, why can’t a dental office do it?” he said.

“A lot of times in dental schools you’re trained to do something just a certain way. You’re never really trained to think outside of the box.”

Kraby said he was initially skeptical when Mary Reck, his dental assistant and Molly’s trainer, came to him with the idea shortly after he bought the office in April. It only took a few appointments to change his mind.

“I’m trying to reach out to that segment of the population that won’t see a dentist, wouldn’t consider doing just routine stuff to keep the preventive aspect of things under control,” Kraby said.

On a recent morning, 10-year-old Hugh Witzmann patted Molly’s black fur with one hand while gripping the armrest with the other. The work he needed done took no more than 20 minutes, and Hugh appeared visibly relieved when it was done.

He said he was comforted by Molly’s presence. “It kind of doesn’t freak you out as much.”

Molly, who also has worked at battered women’s shelters and with children of alcoholics, had a lot of training before she was allowed to interact with patients.

She and Reck completed four obedience classes and an eight-week class at AllBreed Obedience, a dog-training school in Woodbury that partners with Pet Partners, a national nonprofit organization that brings therapy dogs to the sick and elderly.

Therapy dogs must be “comfortable in their own skin. They’re comfortable around people,” All Breed owner Debra Schneider said Monday. “These are dogs that from the get-go enjoy being around humans and have absolutely no signs of being reactive” to outside stimuli, including loud noises and other dogs.

Hypoallergenic breeds make for good therapy dogs, but Reck said that the animals — Molly included — are wiped down with disinfectant after every visit.

Dr. Edward Creagan, an oncologist at the Mayo Clinic, noted several benefits of partnering animals with patients in a video interview on Pet Partners’ website.

“When you look into the eyes of that cat, when you stroke that dog, when you hold that animal there is a surge of hormones deep within the center of the brain and these hormones provide a tremendous feeling of peace, of serenity, of tranquility. They decrease our blood pressure, they decrease our pulse, they lessen our depression,” Creagan said.