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Canine Therapy

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It’s amazing the changes one goes through over the course of a lifetime. For example, I am now never without a book, however when growing up you couldn’t pay me to read for pleasure. I was also never very devoted to academics and yet recently I willingly enrolled myself in grad school. It seems like my younger years were filled with doing the bare minimum, but with my uncanny ability to do the unexpected I suppose it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I’m now packing my schedule with responsibilities, possibly to make up for lost time.

One of my most recent missions involves volunteering for the Canine Therapy Corps (CTC). I got involved in CTC though my aunt, who volunteers with her dog and serves on the Board of Directors. Last year we founded a Young Professionals Board in an effort to boost awareness and fundraising in a younger demographic. If we’re friends on Facebook you have no doubt been assaulted by my posts asking you to participate in this event or that. Facebook averages over 500k posts every 60 seconds, so who can blame you for ignoring or missing the message. Luckily as an Oy! blogger I have the opportunity to set the record straight.

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The most common misconception about CTC is that it is an animal shelter. In Chicago, where rescuing a dog is so popular, it’s easy to see “Dog” in your feed and think it involves rescues. However CTC is not a shelter. Some also mistakenly believe that CTC helps dogs who need therapy themselves. Now, as a dog owner I’ve been in contact with dogs of all shapes and sizes. And many, in my assessment, need therapy. Therapy to stop barking constantly, therapy to stop humping other dogs, but mostly they need therapy to help them cope with their crazy owners. However CTC does not provide therapy to dogs. So what does Canine Therapy Corps do? They provide animal-assisted therapy USING dogs. 

Bethany Tap, Canine Therapy’s Office and Volunteer Manager, is a true believer. “We talk a lot here about the human-animal bond. You really see the intuitive nature of the dogs exhibiting this unconditional bond. As they’re working with patients there are certain things that don’t need to be explained to the dogs, they are just inherently understood.” Debra Hadelman, CTC volunteer and member of the Board of Directors, offers an example from working with a patient afflicted with spastic cerebral palsy who loved to hug her dog Daffy. “This patient would hug Daffy and the dog would stay completely still. Daffy wouldn’t do that for a family member, she’d always run away, but she let the patient put her in a headlock without complaint.” But Therapy Dogs offer more than just emotional support to the wide range of patients visited by CTC. Where a normal therapy session for these patients would be arduous and ominous, working with an animal makes therapy easier and even fun. An example comes from another one of Hadelman’s volunteer sessions:

“Amanda, a patient with cerebral palsy, was afraid to start practicing walking. So we made a game out it, asking the patient to hide treats for Daffy. With the help of a physical therapist Amanda would now willingly walk to a cone and squat down to hide the treat. (Walking and squatting were both integral activities in the patient’s therapeutic regimen.) Daffy would then find the treats, and Amanda was thrilled. When her Mom came into the room Amanda said to her, ‘You won’t believe what Daffy did!’ completely unaware of the progress she herself had made. Using a dog for physical therapy completely took the fear and anxiety out of the exercise and put Amanda’s focus on the dog.”

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And there are hundreds if not thousands of anecdotes just like these. I’ve been involved in several types of philanthropy in my adult life. What I love about volunteering for Canine Therapy Corps is how much impact one person can make. If you’re interested in learning more about Canine Therapy Corps or attending the annual event on Saturday, February 23rd go to http://caninetherapycorps.org.

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