Caleb Therapy Dog
I have always had a passion for animals and for helping people. When my grandfather was diagnosed and hospitalised with Alzheimers, Caleb (my dog) got a special permission to go for visits. Because of his disease, Grandpa was very aggressive and unpleasant, but as soon as Caleb arrived, he would calm down, be less aggressive and would even start to laugh. That’s when I realised I had a special dog and a mission!
Caleb is now retired but was an active Therapy Dog for many years. We volunteered once a week at an Ottawa Hospital. It was such a blessing to share him with others, to see faces light up when we walked into a room or when he cuddled with a patient. A patient once told me that he felt better when we visited, because Caleb communicates with his heart!!!
Guide Dogs and Service Dogs are well known, but what‘s a therapy dog? These special canines are used to motivate people to reach beyond their physical and emotional limitations. The following are two types of visits:
Animal Assisted Activities include the now well-known pet visits. Teams go to facilities where residents or clients can benefit from the therapeutic effects of human-animal interactions. Studies have demonstrated that these visits can lead to decreased blood pressure, lowered pulse and breathing rates, and increased appetite, among other benefits.
Animal Assisted Therapy is lead by a health care professional. Goals are determined for the visit by the health personnel in consultation with the Therapy Dog Handler. The outcome of the session is documented in the file or chart. An example of this might be an Occupational Therapist working with a client to improve mobility in an arm or hand. The Handler places the dog for ease of petting or grooming. Or retrieving exercises are done to strengthen arm movement. In each case the presence of the dog is motivational and makes the exercise both more interesting and fun for the clients.
Before I could start visiting with Caleb, I received training from the Ottawa Therapy dogs. Then after being evaluated to ensure safe and responsible visits, we received our OTD membership. They also guided me in selecting a placement for therapy work, with the aim of finding a “good fit” and a rewarding experience for Caleb, myself and patients.
Caleb loved going to the hospital and was able to adjust to different situations or needs. Sometimes being happy and playful, performing his different tricks or resting his head on a patient who needed a friend. It was so touching to see all the people who waited for him every week or who told me how Caleb had made a great difference in their lives!
To learn more about The Ottawa Therapy dogs, how to volunteer or on making a donation, please visit the website www.ottawatherapydogs.ca