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Golden Retrievers are often used as therapy dogs due to their calm demeanor, gentle disposition, and friendliness to strangers

A therapy dog is a dog trained to provide affection and comfort to people in hospitals, retirement homes, nursing homes, schools, with people with learning difficulties and stressful situations such as disaster areas.

Therapy dogs come in all sizes and breeds. The most important characteristic of a therapy dog is its temperament. A good therapy dog must be friendly, patient, confident, at ease in all situations, and gentle. Therapy dogs must enjoy human contact and be content to be petted and handled, sometimes clumsily.

A therapy dog's primary job is to allow unfamiliar people to make physical contact with it and to enjoy that contact. Children in particular enjoy hugging animals; adults usually enjoy simply petting the dog. The dog might need to be lifted onto, or climb onto, an individual's lap or bed and sit or lie comfortably there. Many dogs contribute to the visiting experience by performing small tricks for their audiences or by playing carefully structured games.

Contents

History of the Therapy Dog

During World War II, under combat operations against Japanese forces on the island of New Guinea, Corporal William Wynne found a young adult Yorkshire Terrier abandoned on the battlefield. Unable to care for the dog, he bought the female "Yorkie" and named her Smoky.

Smoky's small size enabled her to become a hero by helping engineers to build an airbase at Lingayen Gulf, Luzon, a crucial airfield for Allied aircraft. Early in the Luzon campaign, the Signal Corps needed to run a communication wire through a 70-foot long pipe that was eight inches in diameter. The pipe passed beneath the landing strip. Dirt had fallen through the corrugated pipe, filling as much as half of the pipe, giving Smoky only four inches of headway in some places.

Wynne tied a string (itself attached to the communication wire) to Smoky's collar and ran to the other end of the pipe and called Smoky. The little yorkie crawled her way along the 70-foot long pipe into the arms of Corporal Wynne.

Smoky’s work prevented the need to move 40 fighter aircraft while a construction detail dug up the taxiway. This would have placed them in jeopardy from enemy air bombardment. What would have been an extended construction job, was accomplished by this little dog in minutes.

Her service as a therapy dog began when Corporal Wynne was hospitalized for a jungle disease. As Wynne recovered, Wynne's Army pals brought Smoky to the hospital for a visit and to cheer the soldier up. Smoky immediately became a hit with the other wounded soldiers. Dr. Charles Mayo, of the famed Mayo Clinic, was the commanding officer who allowed Smoky to go on rounds and also permitted her to sleep with Wynne in his hospital bed for five nights. Smoky’s work as a therapy dog continued for 12 years, during and after World War II.

The establishment of a systematic approach to the use of therapy dogs is attributed to Elaine Smith, an American who worked as a registered nurse for a time in England. Smith noticed how well patients responded to visits by a certain chaplain and his canine companion, a Golden Retriever. Upon returning to the United States in 1976, Smith started a program for training dogs to visit institutions. Over the years other health care professionals have noticed the therapeutic effect of animal companionship, such as relieving stress, lowering blood pressure, and raising spirits, and the demand for therapy dogs continues to grow. In recent years, therapy dogs have been enlisted to help children overcome speech and emotional disorders.

In 1982, Nancy Stanley, a San Diego mother of two, founded Tender Loving Zoo (TLZ), a nonprofit organization that introduced animal therapy to severely handicapped children and to convalescent hospitals for the elderly. She got the idea while working at the Los Angeles Zoo, where she noticed how handicapped visitors responded eagerly to animals. She researched the beneficial effects that animals can have on patients and soon thereafter, Ms. Stanley began taking her pet miniature poodle, Freeway, to the Revere Developmental Center for the severely handicapped.

Inspired by the response of the patients and the encouragement of the staff, she took $7,500 of her own money, bought a van, recruited helpers, and persuaded a pet store to lend baby animals. Soon requests for TLZ were coming from schools, hospitals and convalescent homes all over the county. Partly as a result of Ms. Stanley's work, the concept of dog-therapy has broadened to "animal-assisted therapy", including many other species, such as therapy cats, therapy rabbits, therapy birds and so on. [1]

Classification of Therapy Dogs

Therapy dogs are not service or assistance dogs. Service dogs directly assist humans, and have a legal right to accompany their owners in most areas. In the United States, service dogs are legally protected at the federal level by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Therapy dogs do not provide direct assistance and are not mentioned in the Americans with Disabilities Act.[2] Institutions may invite, limit, or prohibit access by therapy dogs. If allowed, many institutions have rigorous requirements for therapy dogs.

Many organizations provide testing and accreditation for therapy dogs. In the USA, some require that a dog pass the equivalent of the American Kennel Club's Canine Good Citizen test, and then add further requirements specific to the environments in which the dogs will be working. In other places, the certification is by other organizations such as St John Ambulance, the Alpha Society, Inc., Tampa, Fl., Delta Society, Bellevue, Wa, TDInc, Cheyenne, WY and TDI, Inc., Silver Spring, WA. Typical tests might ensure that a dog can handle sudden loud or strange noises, can walk on assorted unfamiliar surfaces comfortably, are not frightened by people with canes, wheelchairs, or unusual styles of walking or moving, get along well with children and with the elderly, and so on.

Pet Therapy is a more inclusive terminology regarding the benefits from having a "therapy dog", or other "therapy animals" such as cats and rabbits.

In the UK an organisation "Pets as Therapy" provides visiting dogs and cats to institutions/establishments where pets are otherwise not available.

References

  1. ^ SOURCE: "When One Volunteer Makes All the Difference," 11/5/85 Woman’s Day, 1633 Broadway, New York, NY 10019, 1-212-767-6000
  2. ^ Information Resource on Assistance Animals for the Disabled

The organizations do not "certify" therapy dogs; they are simply therapy dog registrars.

See also

External links

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Simple English

Therapy dogs are dogs used to protect and to work for their master or mistress. They are also used to work for people with bad diseases that cause them to have to sit in a wheel chair or just something that they need help with. They also are there to protect children. An example of a therapy dog would be a Newfoundland dog.



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