Puppy Dog Tales - December 2015
Visiting Pet Teams of South Mississippi
This month, Daisy Mae (our columnist and registered seizure-alert dog) introduces an organization made up of pets and their peeps who volunteer to make the world a better place.
One of my jobs was to go on emergency calls, like fires. While Tina was interviewing the people I was sitting with any children or elderly people in need of a little emotional support. It was amazing to see how much I was able to calm them down and distract them. A good hug and a head on a lap goes a long way.
As I have related we service dogs are pretty special and I also have the honor of being a therapy animal too. Therapy animals work with a handler/partner to provide support to people who need comfort and help with their therapy, and mental stimulation.
Unlike service animals who can only be dogs or horses, therapy animals can be dogs, horses, cats, rabbits, birds, guinea pigs, llamas/alpacas, pigs and rats. Whoda thunk it! Please watch this short video on Pet Partners and then I will tell you about our team here on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
Pet Partners is the parent organization of our own visiting Pet Teams of South Mississippi Pet Therapy Group. I found in my reading that for more than 40 years organized animal- assisted therapy has been helping people in hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living centers, and at other venues. Nationwide more than 11,000 animals visit more than one million people in a year.
Visiting Pet Teams was organized in 2009 and now has 32 active members. Only one, Patsy Thomas, the coordinator is in Hancock County. They are recruiting new members so the program can expand. Ms. Thomas would love to tell you about the program and the requirements for handler and animal. She can be reached at 228.265.0336 or by email.
Their website gives you information on what is required – they need a friendly animal with basic obedience training, a clear health record, and training specific to the program. There will be a new member orientation on Saturday, January 9th at 9:30 a.m. at Gulfport Memorial Hospital. Contact Patsy Thomas for details.
The idea of working as a team with your pet is cool. Helping people is even better. Ms. Thomas told me about a visit to a lady who was non-responsive in a nursing home. When the dog and her partner entered the room the woman spoke and asked to pet the dog. Autistic children often speak their first words to a therapy animal.
There is some real magic in this three-way relationship of animal therapist, the handler, and the person visited. Ms. Thomas said that helping motivate people to move past a trauma or to just feel safe and loved is a big part of what the program is all about.
Ms. Thomas said that when a volunteer visits a nursing home, they “bring a bag of pennies and leave with a bag of gold.” Here is the Google website for Visiting Pet Partners – look through it and the photos and think about being a partner with your pet for people who need you.
Comments are closed.