It’s true! My dog, Lola, and I are a registered therapy dog team with Therapy Dogs, Inc. We became certified in the summer of 2010. Originally, we went to OSF and visited patients in their rooms and families in the waiting room. Currently, we volunteer at Illinois CancerCare and have been there since 2011. Lola and I both love volunteering and giving people a smile while they are getting treatment. Never underestimate the power of distraction and the love of an animal to help with healing. Lola definitely knows when she’s volunteering and pays extra attention to those who need it. And especially now, with her in a wheelchair, she definitely gets lots of attention from the patients and staff.
I often get asked certain questions about being a therapy dog team and decided to try to answer them all hear as best I can.
What are the requirements?
Your dog must be friendly, at least 1 year of age, and have all vaccines up to date as well as an annual health exam completed. Click here to go to TD Incs ‘Become a Member’ page with all the details.
Does my dog have to go through training?
Not exactly. You’re tested on situations, but there is no training. We were observed in situations with loud noises, sudden movements, kids, large equipment, and everything you could think of to see how your dog reacts. The most important thing is that your dog listens to you. They must use a leash attached to the collar at all times and should stay by your side while walking. They should be calm when meeting new people, too. Knowing sit and stay would be ideal, but your dog isn’t expected to be perfect or perform tricks. It’s not the same as a service dog.
Where all can you visit?
Therapy dogs can benefit all types of situations! Schools, nursing homes, hospitals, medical facilities are probably the most popular. Some places, like the hospitals, you must go through an orientation.
How often do you have to visit?
You must visit at least once every 3 months. It’s very flexible. :)
Please visit therapydogs.com to get all the details. I’m just going over the basics here and putting them in my own words. I love volunteering with Lola and I highly recommend looking into becoming a registered therapy dog team if your dog fits the bill.