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Therapy Dogs Visit Palmetto

December 9, 2018


On Tuesday Dec. 4, members of Biology Club, Paws and Psychology Club gathered in the science wing to meet 10 hard working therapy dogs. These canines contribute to their communities by working in nursing homes, hospitals, schools and libraries to relieve stress for people.

According to Mayo Clinic, dogs lower their owners’ blood pressure and improve overall mental and physical health. Therapy dogs often go to nursing homes to spend time with the elderly while improving their memory and mental health.

Therapy dog Piper and owner Linda Reynolds visit Baptist Hospital, nursing homes and schools as a way to serve their community. Reynolds first got the idea to start traveling with Piper after an unfortunate stay at the hospital.

“Some handsome guy walked into my room with a therapy dog and it made me feel so much better. So, I thought when I get better this is what I am going to do. It was just fate,” Reynolds said.

Bringing Piper around to all these places showed Reynolds how much dogs can really help people.

“At the hospital I put Piper on the patient’s bed, it calms them down and actually lowers their blood pressure,” Reynolds said. “When I take her to nursing homes, the senior citizens that have Alzheimer’s or Dementia, or just regular seniors, their interactions with the dog spark a conversation and sparks their memories. Like I ask if they had any animals at home or if they can remember their names and it does help them a lot.”

Besides aiding senior citizens memories and helping people’s health, therapy dogs go to libraries to help kids who struggle in reading. By giving struggling readers a nonjudgmental listener, their reading and confidence noticeably improves.

“It was very rewarding to see the kids read to the dogs. The ones who weren’t comfortable readers really opened and read normally because they felt so comfortable with the dogs. Their parents would tell me how they never heard them read out loud before, so it really meant a lot to me that Bo and I made a difference,” therapy dog owner Cipora Auslander said.

In order to receive certification, a dog must pass training and evaluations to make sure that they have the personality and demeanor to get along with other dogs and people to become a therapy dog.

“It’s not a training process, either you have a dog that is worthy of being a therapy dog or you don’t. they need the personality. Piper doesn’t bark, and she is very comfortable around everyone. Besides that, she just really needed to be evaluated to make sure she would not snap on someone and she listens,” Reynolds said.

Rickee and Piper Mahoney have been training and showing dogs for over four years as a way to help themselves and give back to their community. Their Golden Retriever, Sunny soaks up the love and attention while providing some therapy everywhere she goes.

“I saw a lot of videos on YouTube and I thought it was really cool so now I train therapy dogs, agility, rally and obedience. The dogs make me really happy and just seeing how they help others makes me feel really good,” Mahoney said. “Sunny was really anxious in the car but once she saw everybody walk in she just got so happy and friendly.”

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