Michele Fleet's and her WORKING THERAPY DOGS
The therapy work I do with my three Berners is different because the dogs work all day everyday at a school.
I teach special education at the Johnston Middle School and for the past 5 years have had therapy dogs in my class. The idea was to develop communication skills for special students. My class took a Bernese MD puppy and trained her to pass her TDI test.
The students worked with Belle taking her places to help others with greater disabilites than their own, to give pet safety and pet care presentations to classrooms and even visit senior citizens centers.We had a veterinarian, dog trainer and the support of the Animal Assisted Therapy Program at the Iowa Methodist Hospital. When our first dog was a year old she passed the therapy dog test. Based on the work the students did with her, Belle was inducted into the Iowa Animal Hall of Fame and was named Companion Animal of the year.
Documenting the growth in communication skills enabled us to be nominated for and to win the FINE( First in the Nation in Education) Award in 2003. The students and Belle went to the Governor's Mansion for an award ceremony. The governor then came to our school and visited our classroom. Since the start of the program we have grown to have 4 dogs( a pomeranian and 3 berners).
Personally I take the dogs to work monthly at Iowa Methodist and I help them give presentation to adult education classes. The dogs and students have a very busy schedule and we grow with each day and opportunity their existence in our school presents. The dogs have not only broken down walls between my students and the world but have built bridges so now our classroom is the world.
IS YOUR BERNER READY FOR THERAPY WORK?
- Does your dog enjoy meeting lots of people?
- Is he or she outgoing, calm and confident in new situations?
- Is your dog free of shyness, reluctance or extra stress?
- Can you maintain control your dog?
- Is your dog even tempered, good natured, and does she/he tolerate being handled by a wide variety of people?
If your answers are “Yes” then your Bernese Mountain Dog is a candidate for a therapy dog program.
MORE BERNER THERAPY LINKS
In Kansas City, Moritz and Archie visit a children’s home once a week and have been recognized by Points of Light.
Dulci in St. Louis is certified through the St. Louis Chapter of Love on a Leash. She helps with children’s reading programs and is assigned to a classroom in the special school. Dulci works with the teacher, physical, occupational and speech therapists to help the children in her classroom.
In Salt Lake City a special Bernese Mountain Dog helps children learn to read.
Kosak who lives with Molly in Charlottesville, VA just got his Delta Society badge.
Ursa in Carmel, NY helps out in a psychiatric classroom for children with special needs, visits at the Blythedale Children's Hospital, and is in a library reading program.
Maggie is certified through TDI and regularly visits a nursing home. She also worked in a children's reading program at an elementary school.
When Briggs, Sennenhof Isole de Brissago, was visiting a hospital ward for neurological trauma patients a nurse asked if Briggs could visit with one of the patients who did not move or talk much anymore. Well Briggs proved that wrong! The man broke into a huge smile when he saw Briggs. As Briggs got close and put his head in the man's lap, the man started saying "How pretty, how soft". The man's movement was very limited, but both man and beast seemed to enjoy themselves.
Panda helped out at a shelter for abused women and children and visited hospital wards. He was a member of a therapy dog group in Massachusetts, and earned his TDI in April 2004. He was proud to be a member of Pals on Paws, and enjoyed square dancing with his fellow TDI dogs
A visit from a Berner can provide entertainment and bring a welcome distraction from pain and infirmity. Bernese Mountain Dogs bring comfort and joy into the lives of people through visiting pet programs, animal assisted therapy and participation in therapy dog programs.
A smile on the face of someone who is suffering and a pat on the head are the greatest goals for our therapy Berners.
THERAPY DOG PROGRAMS
The most basic requirement for therapy work is a clean, well behaved, well socialized dog who enjoys meeting people. Some programs require that the dogs pass the Canine Good Citizen test. Most programs also require a few extra tests to confirm your dog is comfortable around hospital equipment and people with physical challenges. All certification programs offer training for Berner and handler.
Some Berners work best one-on-one with seniors in quiet, sedate settings. Others are more suited to running around a field with lively adolescents. Our couch potatoes are involved in reading programs for children and enjoy quiet cuddles. One Bernese Therapy Dog does not do well with strange adults but she thrives working with small children. Bernese Mountain Dogs perform therapy work in a wide variety of settings including acute care and psychiatric hospitals, nursing homes and childrens' homes, Headstart programs, library reading circles, childrens homes, shelters for families in need, ... The list goes on and on.
The common thread that runs through all the stories is that if you are interested in doing animal therapy work with your Bernese Mountain Dog, you should be able to find a program suited to you and your dog.