THERAPY DOGS BRING PLEASURE TO PATIENTS
By: Pamela Loeb Date: 01/8/2012 Category: | Canine Issues |
Please allow me to introduce myself..... as the song says.......
My name is Pamela Loeb. I have been invited to write a column on therapy and assistance dogs, and how they touch our lives. Since this is my first column, I suppose I should introduce myself, my dogs, and how I came to this place.
I grew up in the New York suburbs with a German Shepherd Dog growing up alongside me. I was one year older than the GSD. Just down the street from our house was Guiding Eyes for the Blind, and every Sunday morning we could hear the dogs-in-training barking for their breakfast. I often saw trainers working with dogs on the quiet suburban streets near my home.
Fast forward to my adulthood. I moved to Maryland 10 years ago, and one of our first priorities as a couple with a house was to decide on a breed to join our lives. We had promised ourselves that when we moved out of an apartment we would finally have a dog. My husband and I came from very different dog-owning backgrounds, but we compromised on a breed that appealed to both of us – a Rottweiler. Of course, that choice was cemented when someone attempted to break in to our home just weeks after we moved in!
Although I had always gotten sidelong glances when walking my GSD around town back in New York, I had never heard the controversy surrounding Rottweilers until I brought home my beloved pup. Apparently, there had been several highly publicized incidents involving the breed, and people were on alert.
My breeder very wisely included eight weeks of obedience classes in the price of her pups, and I decided to take advantage of these. Our initial eight weeks flew by, and before I knew it, I was spending every Saturday for the next two years at her farm, both taking and teaching obedience classes for her pups.
After I earned a Companion Dog title with my boy, I began looking for other things we could participate in, and especially other temperament-related titles he could earn. After all, how could someone judge my dog harshly if he had all those wonderful initials after his name?
I stumbled upon an assistance dog training organization in the fall of 1994, and the rest, as they say, is history.
That winter, I had my dog (Kimmar’s Charles One Atlas, CD CGC TDI, now age 10) tested by the volunteers at Fidos For Freedom Inc. to see if he was of suitable temperament to join their therapy program. Although he did not pass the entire test, we were allowed to join their weekly training sessions, and were to have a second chance to re-take those sections. I was thrilled!
Atlas and I earned both his Canine Good Citizen and Therapy Dog International certificates through testing at Fidos For Freedom Inc. I began spending every Wednesday evening at the Fidos training center and soon started to volunteer more and more of my time. I jumped at every opportunity to man an information booth or attend a demonstration, as these were all chances for the public to see and interact with a well-behaved Rottweiler.
All along the way, I have also been involved in the fight against breed specific legislation. I have testified at many hearings in my region and have sent many letters to distant locations. I find that participating in a pet therapy organization helps to balance the negative (breed legislation) with the positive (unconditional love by our dogs).
A couple of years ago, the executive director of Fidos hinted around that there was a vacancy in the organization that I might be suited to fill. Today, I am the puppy coordinator for this group, and I love having the opportunity to select and help train the future working dogs.
We are an all-volunteer organization, and all of the dogs we train are donated to us. It is my job to return phone calls and emails from breeders and screen through potential donations. We have also accepted an occasional family surrender or dog from a rescue organization, but these are fewer in number.
The difference a well-trained service or hearing dog can make in a person’s life is almost unbelievable. I have watched clients’ personalities blossom once they have been matched with their canine partner.
I had the privilege of attending the Assistance Dog International conference the past two years and have met people working in this field from all over the world. What an amazing group! Dog people from every background, using every type of training technique and all working for a common good.
Last year we decided to expand our happy little family, and I brought home a wonderful French Bulldog, MGM’s Mighty Fine Wine, CGC (aka Jeremiah). Jerry has also joined our merry band of therapy dogs, and his quirky appearance brings smiles to everyone’s faces.
I look forward to sharing the joys of therapy and assistance dogs with everyone. Next time out, I’ll discuss a team or two from our program, but I look forward to hearing from you. If you have a wonderful therapy dog, or know a working assistance dog team, please share them with me. I would be happy to write about special teams or answer questions regarding these special dogs.
Thanks for this wonderful opportunity!
About The Author
All Authors Of This Article: | Pamela Loeb |