PAWS – Pet Therapy

This Wagging Wednesday I’m going to talk about PAWS; not animal feet but pets & wellness). Also known as Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT) and it is a type of therapy that involves animals as a form of treatment. The goal of AAT is to improve a patient’s social, emotional, or cognitive functioning. Advocates state that animals can be useful for educational and motivational effectiveness for participants. I only found out about this course last year but AAT dates back to 1860 to the Bethlem Hospital in England. Did you know that after the shooting at sandy hook elementary school an owner of trained Pet Therapy dogs drove all the way there to give their love to the families and friends involved in that tragedy?

When we got Rolo he was a very shy, scared and didn’t want to be around anyone he didn’t trust (not even me). He also has a problem with being around men and sometimes kids; he will never ever hurt anyone but just feels threatened by them because of his past life. I wanted to change this and knew it wasn’t going to be easy or a fast process. After about a month or so he went from sleeping in the basement to sleeping in his bed in our bedroom. I took him out to the dog park and for walks to get him more socialized with other people and pets. I am very lucky that I get to bring Rolo to work with me every day, there are 4 other dogs out at work that he gets free range of running around the big yard with. He also gets to greet all of the people coming into the office. Everyone and I can tell how much he has changed in the almost 2 years we have had him.

About 7 months ago we heard about a program called PAWS that the FMSPCA offered through a local animal training center called 4PAWS(not sure if the FMSPCA offers this anymore) but we got interested and found out all about it. I wanted to socialize Rolo more with men and people he wasn’t used too and also brighten up the day of the people at the hospital/rotary house. We could also attend schools but I have decided Rolo isn’t ready for that as we are working on the men trust issues first.

Our first step was to go and take the GND test (good neighbor test) this involves some manners and how Rolo takes direction from me. Here is the description of what we had to complete during the test: Skills include out of site stays, accepting a strangers greeting, loose-leash walking in a crowd with distractions, loose-leash walking past dogs, and many other valuable life skills. The CGN course is for dogs and owners that are interested in learning more advanced obedience behaviors, including meeting strangers and dogs, and staying with a stranger with the handler out of site. We passed! Next up was the actual course which was a weekend of practicing scenarios, going over what the places we attend expect of us and a whole bunch of reading. After that weekend we had another test which we had to play out other scenarios and show how to handle ourselves, if we passed we would move onto the actual practicum that would take place at a school, hospital or rotary house. We Passed! We went on to our practicums and had a member of the PAWS team escort us to these places, we did 2 at the rotary house and 1 at the hospital. They evaluated us at each one and let us know at the end of our practicum if we passed or not. We Passed! At this point I was so excited and proud of Rolo at how far he has come! I believe we have such a special bond and if anyone else went to take him through this course I don’t think he would have passed. Once our practicum was done we attended a volunteer orientation at the hospital then we got our badges and swipe cards.

We have only visited the hospital a few times since we graduated but plan on going more now that my life has slowed down a smidge. It brings joy to my heart knowing that my dog can bring happiness to someone other than my family and I hope within the next few years we will be able to step it up and go visit the schools.