The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.

Therapy Dogs – More Than Just A Companion

by Becky Smith, The Quill

Laurie Myers, of La Harpe, and her Golden Retriever dogs, Daisy and Rosie, have been busy the past few years traveling around providing comfort and companionship at various places.

Laurie says it all started in 2013 after she retired from teaching at the La Harpe Elementary school. She noticed something different about Daisy who was then almost 2 years old. Daisy had always been exceptionally quiet. Laurie had heard of “therapy dogs” and after doing some research, she thought maybe Daisy was a good candidate to train.

Laurie says, “You can’t decide to train your dog for therapy work. It just doesn’t work that way.” According to Therapy Dogs International, “A therapy dog is born not made”.

Being a therapy dog is not limited to certain breeds either. Any dog, pure bred or not, can become a wonderful therapy dog as long as it has the correct temperament.

Laurie decided to pursue the training and Daisy successfully tested to become a CGC (Canine Good Citizen). To become a CGC, the dog and handler must successfully pass 10 tests. After passing the 10 tests, Laurie was encouraged to continue Daisy’s training to become a certified Therapy Dog with TDI (Therapy Dogs International).

This certification requires 13 tests. The dog must successfully pass each of the 13 behavior tests under different circumstances. Daisy passed with flying colors and since then, Daisy’s sister, Rosie has also become TDI certified.

Therapy Dog International is a volunteer group organized to provide qualified handlers and their Therapy Dogs for visitations to institutions, facilities, and other places where therapy is needed. The primary objective of the TDI dog and handler is to provide comfort and companionship in a way that increases emotional well-being, promotes healing, and improves the quality of life for individuals.

Benefits of pet therapy include physical health, mental health, reading, and physical therapy. Physical health benefits include lowered blood pressure, improved cardiovascular health, and the releasing of endorphins that have a calming effect.

Mental health is improved by lifting spirits and lessening depression, encouraging communication, lowering anxiety, and also helps children overcome speech and emotional disorders.

“Paws for Reading” helps children focus better, improves literacy skills, and increases self-confidence. Physical therapy can benefit with increased joint movement and improved recovery time, maintained or increased motor skills, and provide motivation to exercise.

Laurie, along with Daisy, who is now 6 years old, and Rosie, 3 years, have visited many facilities including eight area elementary schools, WIU, three hospitals, seven extended care facilities, hospice, day cares, group meetings, libraries, and other places where they have done programs.

Daisy has even been requested, to attend an out of town funeral and recently Daisy and Rosie attended a visitation and funeral here in La Harpe.

When doing programs or sharing with children, Laurie often shares some tips that one might not realize when interacting with dogs.

Seven things dogs don’t like are, especially with people they don’t know are:

1) Hugs from strangers;

2) Petting a dog’s head;

3) Looking into their eyes;

4) Not having structure or routine;

5) Putting your face in theirs;

6) NOT being allowed to smell the Roses-It’s how they get their info; and

7) Loud environments. She says dogs hear at least twice as loud as humans do. And, she says it is best to let a dog “greet” you and to pet them on their back or chest instead of their head.

Daisy and Rosie are certified, but she has two other Retrievers that also do the work. Laurie says “when I put their collars on, they immediately go sit by the front door waiting to go to work.”

You can find more information on their Facebook page “Daisy and Friends”.