At the April Mini Paws meeting, the kids learned about service & therapy dogs. We’re lucky that we have two volunteers within our own organization to present to us and explain how some of our own TLC alumni have gone on to be certified to do these important jobs. Since so many people don’t know the difference between a service dog and a therapy dog or emotional support dog, our presenters explained that a service dog is trained to do specific tasks to assist their person which is why they are permitted to go anywhere with them under the Americans With Disabilities Act.
Therapy dogs are trained to provide comfort to people in hospitals, retirement homes, nursing homes, schools, hospices, disaster areas, and to people with special emotional needs. They can’t go everywhere like a service dog, but many places allow them to come visit. Alana, one of our Mini Paws volunteers, brought her dog Marshall to tell us about her experiences training him and how he has been certified as a therapy dog. Alana & her family started fostering Marshall for TLC as a young puppy and were working with Main Line Deputy Dog to train him become a service dog for someone else. When Marshall ended up not bonding to his intended person and was returned to us, Alana’s family decided to adopt him themselves so Alana could train him to become a therapy dog. Alana worked with another local organization that specialized in training therapy dogs and they were all pleasantly surprised that he not only earned his Canine Good Citizenship at a very young age but that he was able to complete training and become a certified therapy dog before he was even two years old! Alana & Marshall enjoy spending time at hospitals, nursing homes, schools, veterans & children with special needs and plan to be able to visit people to provide comfort as long as they can.
TLC volunteer & foster mom, Anne, also spoke to us about her service dog Sebastian. Anne had originally gotten Sebastian as a companion and, because he was such a quick learner & people pleaser, she put him through all sorts of training including Canine Good Citizen & he competed in Agility. Anne has Lyme Disease & debilitating migraines so decided to look into service dog training after her family noticed that Sebastian began alerting her right before she started to have a migraine. Sebastian stays with Anne wherever she goes, even into the hospital when necessary. She makes sure he wears his service dog vest so people know he is working and that they shouldn’t try to distract him as that could be very dangerous for her. Part of Sebastian’s training includes “intelligent disobedience” which he uses to disregard a command she’s given him so that he can do his job and protect her – even when she’s not paying attention. This is one of the many reasons that people need to respect a service dog and it’s human’s
request you not interact with the dog while he’s working. Since a dog can have a bad day and they do work hard, Anne makes sure to give Sebastian time off to just relax & be a regular member of her family.
Anne brought one of her other dogs, Zeveran, to meet us too. Z was one of Jojo & Gizmo’s puppies that Anne fostered for TLC but fell in love with him & decided to adopt him herself. He’s a fun little guy who loves people and seems to have the great temperament a dog needs to become a therapy dog. He recently celebrated his 1st birthday, is expected to take his Canine Good Citizen test soon, and will eventually be certified therapy dog as well.