Saturday, May 3, 2008

Caring Canines

Today was no ordinary Saturday. It's one I had eagerly anticipated since receiving a request to speak to Caring Canines (www.caringcanines.org), a dedicated therapy dog group in the Greater Boston area. I have a special spot in my heart for therapy dogs since my mother benefitted from a therapy dog who visited her adult day care.
What a heartwarming group of unselfish people make up the Caring Canines membership! I wasn't surprised.
Raise your hand if you're familiar with Therapy Dogs. Not every dog is right for this job but for those who are, and for their owners, they bring a world of caring into the lives of the lonely, ill, infirm.
Caring Canines, one of many such groups throughout the U.S. and probably many other countries, take their dogs on regular visits to nursing homes, assisted living facilities, hospitals, day care centers for the elderly, etc. Anywhere people can use a smile, soft fur to pat, and unconditional love.
For some, a visit can mark the first time someone has spoken or smiled in months or even years. For family members and hard-working staff members, the visits to patients also brings smiles and a chance to relax.
After I spoke, many members related what the visits are like for them, how much they, as well as their dogs, benefit. Just walking in and out of a building can take 15 minutes while people come up to pet the dog. Even those accidental meetings are helpful and welcome.
They also have special programs along with their regular therapy dog visits. Their Hug-a-Pet program brings dogs to at-risk children in residential homes, as well as children who are hospitalized and those in Special Needs classrooms. An Entertainment Team brings dogs to do tricks at Children's Hospital, while another, a Critical Response Team, comforts those who are in the throes of an emergency.
The visits are, of course, free of charge and all of the people involved are volunteers.
Sure, they could be out doing other things with their lives. But they have chosen to share their dogs and that unconditional love with others, asking nothing in return. But what they do get in return is not just the knowledge that they have brightened other lives but that they are connected to other people in a very special way. The experiences touch their hearts as well.
Thanks to the volunteers' generosity of spirit and sharing the world becomes a little brighter place for those in need of light at the end of the tunnel.

3 comments:

bobbiesgirl said...

I agree that Therapy animals provide a wonderful service, and that the human side of the partnership deserves much praise for the voluntary work they put in.

Just one thing - I wonder how people in sheltered accommodation feel, those who have had to surrender their pets in order to be allowed entry. I know I wouldn't like it. Some places have their own house cat or dog, and I think it would be so much better if this could be the rule rather than the exception.

rescuegal said...

Darlene,
I am so glad that you had a chance to share some time with this most worthwhile group and also they with you. Therapy dogs are indeed a godsend to many in nursing homes and other sheltered areas. I take my Desi to at least two nursing/assisted living places and the smiles on the faces who meet her do more for me than anything. Therapy dogs are doing amazing things with children too, so it is nice to read about this group who has made it their special mission to enhance the lives of others.

Darlene said...

Peggy S. asked me to post this for her....

"Dancing Dogs" will be here today was posted on the bulletin board. It was our first visit to Still Hopes. On the back row two ladies slumped over face down in their wheel chairs. They never lifted their heads. After our show was over and petting time ended, the residents were helped back to their rooms. The two ladies remained slumped in their chairs. My dogs and I went over to wait with them. "We're so glad you could come," I said, wondering if they were aware that we were there.
"OH, I enjoyed your performance so much," one of them spoke up. "It reminded me of the dogs I used to have when I was a child."
"I had dogs too," the other one said, and they began telling about their dogs.
I never saw their faces, but I still remember the joy in their voices as they told of their beloved canines."