Monday, August 23, 2010

Canine Assisted Therapy...Celebrating Our 1st Year

It's hard to believe that on August 10th, it will be a year since the incorporation of Canine Assisted Therapy. 

Our Mission: To provide a network of qualified, dependable, caring Therapy Teams committed to delivering a therapeutic benefit through the use of dogs to both children and adults who need comfort, companionship, or the unconditional love that only a dog can provide.  To provide support, training, education and mentoring to those interested in dog therapy programs. To build connections between volunteers, facilities and individuals seeking dog therapy.

We have been truly blessed by wonderful volunteers and supporters who are helping C.A.T. to fulfill this mission.  Because of these wonderful volunteers and supporters, our services have expanded beyond what we first envisioned. 

C.A.T. volunteers not only provide the love and affection of their dogs to those in nursing homes, hospitals and assisted living facilities, but are going forth and providing other much needed services with their dogs.

Some of our current and future services include:

Continuing Education: To make Animal Assisted Activities (AAA)  and  Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) a great experience for those we serve and for the volunteers, education of our volunteers is key.  We have been fortunate enough to have Laura A. Weber, M.S., LMHC to head up this wonderful program which we began in December of last year.  Those who have attended the seminars have come away with a better understanding of such issues as: Mental Illness; Working With Special Populations; Infection Control in Facilities; Alzheimer's and Dementia. These are just a few of the informative seminars.  By having a better understanding of populations that we serve, our volunteers are much more prepared to provide the quality service that they have quickly become known for.

The Senior Corps: Senior Corps was created to involve the residents of assisted living facilities. Many of these individuals are unable to travel outside of their residence, so C.A.T. brings the volunteering opportunity to them.  The seniors assist in the new C.A.T. dog candidate evaluations by providing their participation with wheelchairs and walkers to insure that the dogs are comfortable around these devices.  They also help by putting together packages for special projects and events held by C.A.T.  The Senior Corps has provided an opportunity for those confined in assisted living, to experience the wonderful feeling of being able to give back to the community.

Teen Corps: The Teen Corps is currently in Oxford, Florida and is led by Susan McCauley. Teens and their dogs work together with Susan to prepare for the AKC Canine Good Citizen evaluation with the goal of becoming a Certified C.A.T. Dog team.  The teens then visit nursing homes in the area with their Certified C.A.T. Dogs.  This program not only teaches the teens responsibility and creates a stronger bond with their pets, but enables them to give back to the community and fulfill their community service hour requirement.

Pack Readers Program: One of the most exciting opportunities for C.A.T. volunteers is participating in this program. Advanced Certified C.A.T. Dogs are accompanied by their handlers into schools to help children with their reading skills.  Little did we know that the dogs not only serve to help children with reading, but with social skills and self-confidence as well.  C.A.T. understands the importance of having knowledgeable volunteers working with the children so we are currently putting the finishing touches on a volunteer training program specifically for those participating in this opportunity.

Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT):  Beginning this month, many of our Advanced C.A.T. Dog Teams will be participating in Physical Therapy programs with the disabled.  The dogs will be an important part of the program by performing tasks such as walking alongside a wheel chair or walker, fetching a ball, allowing participants to assist with grooming activities, and many other activities. We all know how much more fun the most mundane activities are if you do them in the company of a dog. 

A very special thank you to all of our volunteers and donors who have helped to make this possible. We can't wait to see what the future will hold for C.A.T. and its wonderful volunteers.