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Archive for the ‘therapy dogs’ Category

Vote for Chessie, the blind therapy dog!

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

Chessie, one of the Paws on a Mission therapy dogs, has been nominated for the American Humane Association’s Hero Dog contest in the therapy dog category. You can vote for Chessie once per day until June 30th.

Chessie the blind therapy dog

Chessie is a petit basset griffon vendeen (PBGV) and cute as a button! She was born blind. Because of this disability, the local obedience club at first did not want to accept her into classes, but Pam, her owner, persisted, training Chessie with voice commands instead of hand signals. Chessie passed the therapy dog test on her very first try at the young age of two, and specializes in bringing smiles and joy to hospitalized children. The children with disabilities especially relate to her. One said, “She’s lucky because she doesn’t know when people are staring at her because she’s different.”

Chessie is a hero every day. Please join me in voting for her and spread the word about Chessie and all the wonderful dogs who’ve been nominated. Thank you!

Baker “Goes Red for Women”

Saturday, February 4th, 2012

Baker dressed for "Go Red" day

As part of February heart month, our hospital participates in the national “Go Red For Women” day to raise awareness of heart disease, one of the major causes of death in women. A booth in the lobby offered free blood pressure screenings and information on preventing heart disease. The therapy dogs were invited to participate and draw visitors to the booth. I think Baker was a bigger attraction than the chocolate candy (did you know dark chocolate is good for your heart?). Petting a dog is also known to reduce blood pressure and stress. But what I noticed most is that at the sight of a friendly dog, everyone smiled.

Greeting hospital staff

They may have entered the hospital lobby with a worried or somber look, but that vanished when they spotted Baker and Heidi, another adorable daschund therapy dog. Please visit Go Red For Women to view a short, entertaining video on the symptoms of a heart attack. I think we can all relate to the young, multitasking mom in the video!

Hug your dog today. It’s good for your heart!

This post is part of the Saturday Pet Blog Hop, hosted by Two Little Cavaliers and Life With Dogs. Please visit these sites to connect with other pet bloggers!

The Gingerbread Dog House Contest at Grove Park Inn

Saturday, December 10th, 2011

Adopt me!

Asheville, NC is known for several famous attractions including the Biltmore Estate and the amazing Grove Park Inn, which is especially fun to visit this time of year to enjoy its massive stone fireplaces in the lobby. The Grove Park Inn also hosts the National Gingerbread House Competition, which has become quite an attraction by itself and is featured on Good Morning America. Recently, the Grove Park Inn became pet-friendly and now welcomes four-legged guests as well.

This year, a dog-loving staff member at the Grove Park Inn dreamed up the idea of the “Grove Bark Inn” Gingerbread Dog House Competition to benefit local charities including the Asheville Humane Society and Paws On A Mission pet therapy program.

Entries had to be composed entirely of dog-edible materials. Judging from the wonderful aroma in the room, many entries contained peanut butter! Over 20 entries were received in this first year of the competition, with the theme of “a dog’s favorite things.” The panel of judges had many wonderful entries to view, including an amazing tall fire hydrant that took Best in Show. Here are my favorites – which are yours?

Log cabin dog house with swimming pool

Sweet dreams!

another swimming pool

A dog's home is his castle

Asheville Humane Society entry

Hiking Hounds!

Beach house

Best in Show winner!

Paws on a Mission – the video

Saturday, November 12th, 2011

Our pet therapy program has done a wonderful short video of some of our teams in action.

We shot the video over several days as teams visited Mission Children’s Hospital inpatient and outpatient areas; Mission Hospital oncology patients, surgical patients, waiting rooms; and community agencies including a hospital hospitality house, a rehabilitation facility, and elementary schools. I accompanied the videographer on most of the shoots, and it was an amazing and uplifting experience to view the dogs in action.

Some of the dogs are multi-talented, such as the sheltie (pictured with the adult cancer patient) who competes nationally in dance competitions. To the delight of the patient and all of us, she showed off a few moves in the patient’s room, but we are saving that footage for a future video!

Many of the dogs are rescues. Jelly, the shepherd/husky mix, simply showed up as a stray one day at the Howey’s home off a rural road. Brandi the dalmatian is also a rescue.

Haley, the beautiful golden retriever pictured at the Rathbun Center, passed away just a week after the video shoot. We are so thankful we captured her giving golden smiles and love to the end.

These are just a few of the more than 80 dogs in the program, including my Baker. We are so proud to be a part of Paws on a Mission!

This post is part of the Saturday Pet Blogger Hop, hosted by Two Little Cavaliers, where you’ll find links to many other pet blogs. Enjoy!

Everyone Speaks “Dog”

Tuesday, November 8th, 2011

Last week Baker and I were assigned to visit the hospital’s Neuro-trauma ICU waiting room, where families with loved ones who  have suffered a stroke, or been in a car accident, or have a life-threatening condition requiring intensive care pass the hours until they are allowed a few moments at bedside. The room is furnished with small groupings of chairs and couches so families  have some privacy as they wait. Most of them sit quietly, gazing at the TV or reading magazines, alone with their thoughts.

It’s hard to know what to say to greet people. Most are surprised to see a dog come into the waiting room, so I begin by explaining that Baker is a therapy dog who is there to visit them if they would like. I’m learning that Baker knows by their smell whether or not they are “dog people” and want to be approached. He’s not shy about sniffing shoes and pant legs as they pat his head.

But it’s not about me making conversation, it’s about Baker making a connection and for a few moments, helping them to forget why they are really there. (more…)

Baker’s Therapy Dog Debut

Saturday, October 29th, 2011

This week Baker and I made our first hospital visit as a therapy dog team, which was a dream come true for me. The journey began years ago when a dear friend was hospitalized with terminal cancer. Therapy dog visits were the highlight of her last days, and led to fond reminiscing about dogs she had loved. Smiles, tears, joy, and faith in being reunited with them on the other side sustained her to the end, and I realized the power of a wagging tail in a hospital, a healing dimension that no high tech treatment, or the most caring human, can provide. To honor my friend’s memory, I promised myself that someday I would do this work.

I had a lot to learn. The process to meet national certification standards and hospital requirements takes time and commitment. It begins with having the right dog, one with a friendly personality and unflappable calm amidst strangers, medical equipment, hospital smells, and sick people. A dog who will obey commands in spite of distractions, and will navigate carefully around wheel chairs and IV tubes. A dog who loves to be hugged by strangers. (more…)

Happy 98th birthday to my Dad!

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

Today my father turns 98 and thankfully he is in good health though he is still recovering from a broken hip in late July. Here, he is pictured in June at Alex’s third birthday party. He is patting Baker, who is getting lots of practice now as a therapy dog. We visit my father daily, and both Baker and Alex have learned to navigate around wheelchairs and walkers to get to the hand holding a treat!

My father grew up in a small town in Upstate New York. He remembers his childhood dog, Trixie, very fondly and loves to recall how she seemed to know when it was time for him to get home from school, and would be waiting at the window. From the time of my earliest memories we had a family dog, and I believe that the love and companionship of dogs is one of the best gifts my parents have given me, as it will sustain me when they are gone. But, today is a day to celebrate a wonderful father whom I am blessed to have still in my life.

Happy 96th Birthday to my Mom!

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

A visit from the therapy dogs

Today my mom turns 96. Thankfully she is in good health and good spirits. The past year has had its challenges, as she survived a heart attack just before Christmas, and in late July, my father fell and broke his hip. Mom is pictured in my father’s hospital room, enjoying a visit from two adorable therapy dogs, long-haired doxies Gibby and Chi-Aynn. Dad is now in skilled nursing at their retirement home, working hard at physical therapy, and Mom spends each day with him, sitting quietly in his room, reading and napping or watching TV. Tomorrow, they will have been married 71 years! It is moving to see their devotion to each other, demonstrated in small gestures -  smoothing a blanket, a squeeze of gnarled hands. We hope Dad will be able to come home soon! Meanwhile the dogs and I visit often, and their faces light up at the sight of wagging tails. My parents both love dogs. I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree!

Baker takes the therapy dog test

Thursday, August 11th, 2011

Learning hand signals

Years ago, I had a dear friend who was hospitalized with terminal cancer. She loved dogs, and her final weeks were brightened by visits from a troupe of golden retriever therapy dogs. Louise’s face lit up with a smile as she described their visits, and often led to reminiscing about her childhood pal, a German Shepherd, whom she was confident she would see again on the other side.  Since then, it’s been a dream of mine to become a pet therapy volunteer. (more…)

More Life Lessons from Therapy Dogs

Sunday, July 24th, 2011

Sadly, our therapy dog program lost another of its long time members this past week. On July 19 Smudge, a 13 year old basset hound, crossed the Rainbow Bridge. Smudge was adopted at age 4 and began doing therapy work soon thereafter. On Saturday mornings he faithfully visited hospitalized children. Smudge was an accomplished counter-surfer and his owner Pam loves to tell the story of his visit to a little girl who had hidden her waffle in the sheets of her hospital bed. No one knows if she was saving it for later, or just pretending to have eaten it, but when Smudge was placed on her bed for a few moments of cuddling, he began rooting around in the sheets and found the waffle in no time! At age 10, Smudge developed incontinence and was diagnosed with back problems requiring surgery. Although he didn’t regain continence, he was otherwise healthy, so Pam learned how to express his bladder, which she did every 6-7 hours for the past three years, arranging her work and the rest of her life around this schedule. Although she tried using vet techs to help on occasion, Smudge would not let anyone else express him. (more…)

Life Lessons from a Therapy Dog

Monday, July 4th, 2011

Haley

Haley, a long-time therapy dog with Paws with a Purpose (now known as Paws on a Mission) recently passed away. Haley spread joy and comfort right up until the end, continuing to make therapy dog visits during what would be the last week of her life. The following tribute written by her owner, Ken, contains an important lesson.

DON’T WAIT TO EAT YOUR TOAST!

Ever since she was a puppy, Haley loved toast and she loved peanut butter. In fact, she would eat ANYTHING with peanut butter on it! Every time the toaster was set on the kitchen counter top, Haley would strategically position herself to be certain to receive the corner piece of toast to which she felt she was entitled. Haley would get one corner and her sister Sam would be tossed another – rarely would the ‘girls’ actually catch the pieces but they’d certainly scramble like mad to clean them off the floor. Even when Haley lost her sense of hearing, she seemed to sense when that toaster came out and she’d be sure to be there, drooling like a starving hound, waiting for that tiny, precious, single corner of toast. (more…)

A Pet Therapy Visit to the Children’s Hospital

Friday, June 24th, 2011

Baker and I are training to become registered to do pet therapy at our local hospital.  As we have studied for the test, we have learned there is a lot more to pet therapy than meets the eye! I recently had the opportunity to “shadow” some pet therapy teams as they visited the Children’s Hospital. Of course, Baker is not allowed in the hospital until he has passed the test, which we hope to take soon. For me, this visit was a chance to measure my own emotions when visiting patients. “Our volunteers love visiting the kids, but it’s not all fun and games,” the pet therapy coordinator had warned. (more…)

Baker visits the tailgate market

Sunday, May 15th, 2011

Comparing prices

As part of his training for our upcoming therapy dog test, Baker is practicing walking calmly through crowds, greeting strangers politely, and ignoring other dogs and distractions. Yesterday, we made an outing to our local tailgate market. This is one of my favorite weekend activities, to shop at the market which due to our wet winter and spring, is abundant with produce and flowers. First, Baker checked out the prices. Next, we bought some orange and purple “million bells” plants and a small pot of yellow petunias, to make a hanging basket, and a head of broccoli. We finished our shopping at our favorite booth, the cupcake lady, where we practiced the “leave it!” command – well, Baker practiced it but I didn’t. By the time we strolled back to the car, my peach-ginger muffin was almost gone! Baker was a very good boy and behaved perfectly in spite of many distractions!

At the cupcake booth

Blind springer rescue becomes a therapy dog!

Monday, November 15th, 2010

Abbey (on left), Sam, and Tracy

Congratulations to Abbey, who recently became registered as a therapy dog with Paws with a Purpose! Abbey and her brother Sam were adopted from English Springer Rescue. Here is their inspiring story from proud mom Tracy:

My last day with Maxwell was May 10, 2007. He was my first Springer rescue. A family with three children didn’t have time for him and placed an ad in the paper FREE to good home. We had 13 wonderful years together, and letting Maxwell go was by far the hardest thing I’ve ever faced in my life. It took me quit awhile to even think of getting another animal. I still had Gizmo and Ditch, two rescue cats so I didn’t feel completely alone. But I knew I couldn’t go long without another dog. (more…)

Funding a hospital pet therapy program

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

I’m back from presenting a workshop on starting and funding a pet therapy program at the American Holistic Nurses Association Conference in Colorado Springs. In future posts I will share some of the fund raising tools that have worked for us at Paws with a Purpose, but I wanted to say a special thanks to the two Delta Society pet partners who participated in our workshop. Both dogs had interesting stories. Lacey, a lovely golden retriever, was originally trained as a hearing assistance dog by a prison inmate, in a program where prisoners teach dogs basic obedience skills. Although Lacey did not become a service dog, she found her calling as a therapy dog and became registered with Delta. She works with American Humane Association’s Animal-Assisted Therapy and the American Red Cross K-9 Therapy programs, visiting a variety of military and health care facilities, and is especially gifted at working with disabled military veterans. The other pet partner, Ladybug, is a cute-as-a-bug Yorkie. Ladybug came from a puppy mill situation and had no idea how to act like a normal dog. She simply froze, if asked to do anything. She spent an entire obedience class standing in one spot, refusing to move or react in any way. Her new family worked hard to bring her out of her shell, and discovered that she loved children and also loved agility work. Through much patience and love, Ladybug learned to trust and love back, and became a registered therapy dog, also serving with the Red Cross K-9 Therapy program. At the conclusion of our workshop, both Lacey and Ladybug were the center of attention as attendees crowded around to meet them. It was heartwarming and inspiring to see these two dogs spreading smiles, comfort and love to a room full of strangers, and to think of the hearts that they heal every day.  (more…)