Why can't we always have pictures? Contrary to work that is directly related to animals and animals that live in a shelter, most of the animals we work with still belong to families. Or the people we work with are at need because of their medical or physical disabilities. When we're focused on working with families, clients or owners, sometimes in stressful or emotional circumstances, stopping the conversation to take a picture isn't always an option. (Photo to the left is a picture of Scout working as a therapy dog in a different setting.)
*Names were changed to respect the families privacy.
Recently, Scout, a four-year veteran Therapy Dog and Ambassadog for MCHA, and I fulfilled a somewhat unusual request to visit to someone's private home. I received a call from Mrs. Rose* who said that she and her husband were part of a stroke support group and had found out about the VIPaws therapy animal program. Her husband is a retired firefighter and veteran who loves dogs, but did not get to visit with them often. Mr. Rose* had gone from being a very active and athletic individual, to being stuck in the house with little activity or visitors most of the time. Mrs. Rose was hoping one of our therapy dogs might be able to come out to their house for a visit.
All of the VIPaws therapy animal teams are registered through the Pet Partners program, which trains and screens handlers and their pets for visits to people in various facilities or public events. The regulations set by Pet Partners do not allow our volunteers to visit private homes unless there is a health care provider present during the visit for documentation and safety purposes. Under these conditions, a visit for Mr. Rose was not an option.
However, finding new ways to reach individuals and provide the much needed service, even if only briefly, is a focus for MCHA. I worked to arrange a visit with Scout, not in her role as a therapy dog, but as an Ambassadog for MCHA. Similar to conditions associated with the "Send a Snuggle" program, Scout was able brighten the day for this gentleman who has spent his life helping others.
Scout and I spent an hour visiting, sharing stories, and hearing about the dogs they used to have, as well as their wonderful "grand-dogs" who just don't get to visit quite often enough. Scout gave and received so much love, enjoyed many treats, and finally ended up lying across the gentleman's feet while we chatted. Everyone enjoyed the visit, and we were able to brighten the day of someone who spent so many years helping others. Sharing the joy and connection of the human/animal bond is what our Animal Ambassadors are all about, and we were happy to be able to brighten a dreary winter afternoon.
For more information on how you and your pet can become involved in the VIPaws therapy animal program, or for more information about our Animal Ambassadors, please contact Sarah DeLone at email@example.com or 812-335-9453.