The benefits of being a pet therapy team
Posted by Chris Dierbeck, Therapy Dog Handler
My dog Sydney and I have been a pet therapy team with Journey Care for the last two years. When people think of therapy dogs most picture a little pup who will come lay quietly in their lap or on their bed. But when we arrive we can see the surprise in their eyes; Sydney is 80 pounds of labradoodle. Her size makes it easy for patients to reach her from their chair or bed. And people have shared that having a big dog lean on you is like getting a wonderful furry hug.
We didn’t start out to be a pet therapy team. Sydney first had to earn her canine good citizen award. When she showed the ability to meet all the required behaviors we decided to test with Therapy Dogs International to see if she could attain certification. At one year old she did just that! Within days our email was filled with requests for us to visit organizations, which started our connection as volunteers with JourneyCare.
Bringing Sydney to a patient visit regularly starts conversations about their own lives. Being able to share stories is fun and relaxing, and also gives the patient something to tell their next visitors about. And children amazingly forget their troubles and just love seeing a big silly dog in their room. Patients and family members love to reminisce about their own pets, and when we visit in a common area, other patients, families and staff often like to join in with us. And if a patient is non-verbal, there is still an obvious response that tells us we are making a happy difference.
My life has changed so dramatically since Sydney and I joined JourneyCare. I learned that I am capable of patience I didn’t know I had, as well as increased my empathy towards others. I now look at life with such appreciation, and having Sydney by my side gives me courage in moments when I may have normally shied away.
JourneyCare, and all its staff and volunteers have made my volunteer career magnificent, and I am so grateful for the team who answers my questions and celebrates my successes. I only wish I had started this earlier in my life!
JourneyCare needs more four-legged volunteers to provide unconditional love! On a regular or as-needed basis, certified therapy dogs (preferably through Therapy Dogs International) and their owners visit patients at private residences, our CareCenters, and skilled nursing or assisted living facilities. Become a pet therapy volunteer for JourneyCare! Visit our website to apply!