You may have seen them in airports surrounded by harried travelers or in hospitals visiting patients. They make the rounds at nursing homes, crisis centers, schools, and any number of places people need a lift in spirit. We’re talking about dogs and their owners teaming up to bring smiles to the faces of those who are stressed or lonely. They’re generally referred to as pet therapy teams, and there’s no shortage of need for them across the country.
Pet Therapy Programs
If you are the owner of a dog who is gentle and well-mannered, chances are the two of you can become certified to become a pet therapy team. It’s way easier than you might think. Groups like Pet Partners, Gabriel’s Angels, Canine’s Teach Compassion, Lapan Sunshine Foundation, and many, many more are out there. Some are local, and others are nationwide, but the fact is they all need volunteers to join their cause. If you do a google search for your area, they’re bound to pop up, and you can check their website. They all have sections or dropdown tabs for volunteer work spelling out the procedure for joining.
Part-Timers & Retirees
People of all ages participate in these programs, but a lot of folks who either work part-time or who are retired make up the bulk of the teams. They are very flexible in hours and scheduling, so you’d only be making visits on days and at times that are convenient for you. The reward here is the happiness you and your fur buddy will provide to people who will benefit from your visits. As retirees age, they tend to drop out of volunteer programs due to sickness or family obligations, so the need is ever-present.
Pet Handler & Dog Requirements
You must be at least 18 years old to apply. Your dog must be at least 1 year old, up to date on their vaccines, and enjoy attention. You may be required to take a handler’s course and your dog must complete a health screening and an evaluation for their suitability for the role. Groups such as Alliance Therapy Dogs certify dog therapy teams, but the organization nearest you may use another source.
Animal Therapy Teams
If you don’t have a dog but you have other pets and you’d still like to help out, Pet Partners welcomes volunteers with cats, horses, birds, and five other species, so you’re not just limited to being a canine handler. And even if you don’t have a pet, you can still become a therapy team support member doing the same important work, so don’t sell yourself short. If this sounds like something you’d be interested in, look into it today and start making a difference in the lives of others.