Therapy Dog Teams

Bettye and Sheila
Bettye and Sheila

What draws me to become partners with Sheila, my canine companion, in Morningstar’s Therapy Dogs group? It is a combination of things. I see on a daily basis what difference animals make in peoples’ lives. I actually hear the difference a loving touch makes in a heartbeat, see the way physical contact comforts both human and animal companions, revel in the sensation of soft fur, silky ears and solid, warm bulk pressed against me. I know how it makes me feel, and I hear again and again what a blessing it is to my clients. I also share the heartache of older clients who are forced to give up their independent lifestyle and their pets as age dictates a move to assisted living or nursing home facilities. Often as people age and their friends and relatives die or move away, their animal companion becomes their main reason for living. It doesn’t seem right to me that they are forced to part with the one thing that makes it worth getting out of bed in the morning. By being Therapy Partners we can help to reconnect people to that loving acceptance and unquestioning companionship.

It helps, too, that Sheila never gets enough petting and loving up. She is the original “Love Sponge” and thinks her day would be perfect if she could just spend it with her head under someone’s hand. I have been so proud of the way she handled our training. She has had the chance to show off what a good dog she really is, staying quietly when I walked away from her, allowing anyone to approach her and pet her, staying calm while bedpans dropped and walkers clanked her way, and even learning to LEAVE IT when the most delectable treats were right in front of her nose.  I was a little concerned about our testing since we had never done formal dog training, but we passed the tests with flying colors.

We officially retired from therapy dog visits in 2011.  Sheila still dances and prances when she sees the MTD vest she wore on our visits, and wants to go “say hello” if we are anywhere near Homestead, where we visited last.  At seventeen & a half, she still loves to meet and greet, but is more inclined to say hello, get her pats, and then sink into a snooze while I visit with our old friends.

Paula and Maggie

Paula and Maggie

Keven and Ruth Isgar are my neighbors, and their enthusiasm for the Therapy Dog program is contagious!

After our brindle Boston terrier puppy, Maggie, joined our household in August of 2004, we participated in several classes taught by Marion Lewis of Falkenhof Canines, and we also joined the Falkenhof parade team.  One day we were lining up waiting for a parade to start and I noticed a little girl sitting nearby with her mother.  Maggie loves children, and the mother asked if they could pet her.  We approached them, and the little girl looked at the ground, folded her arms, and drew away.  Instead of jumping up on her and licking her face and hands as she is accustomed to doing with my grandchildren, Maggie seemed to know, instinctively, to slow down and approach slowly.  She sat down, then moved forward a few steps, then sat down again.  After several minutes, Maggie was within reach of the little girl, and finally she reached out to touch Maggie.  The mother told me her little girl was autistic and that was the first time she had petted a dog.  We had a couple of similar experiences after that, so  when  Marion offered a Canine Good Citizen Preparation class, with the option of therapy dog testing,  I thought Maggie would be a good candidate.  Then I found out about the Read to Rover program.  Since Maggie loves children, and since it has long been a goal of mine to somehow be involved with children and reading, the Read to Rover program is tailor made for us.   She prances into the school, ears at attention, and greets all with a wiggle and a grin.  She’s a clown who brings out a smile from almost everyone she meets, but she also loves to snuggle up in someone’s lap.   Maggie and I are new to Therapy Dog work, but I can see already that working and learning with her will create an even deeper bond between us, as well as simply being fun!

Molly and Wendy

Molly and Wendy

Molly Morgan Burrell and her handler, Wendy, have been a team since Molly became a therapy dog in May of 2008.  Molly has participated in the Reading to Rover program at the Montrose Regional Library on Saturday mornings.  She also accompanies Wendy to the weekly “Pets R Us” after school classes taught by members of the Montrose Animal Protection Agency.

Wendy is a retired elementary school teacher who still enjoys encouraging children to discover the joys of reading, so the therapy dog Reading to Rover program was a natural fit.  Plus, Molly is crazy about kids, so there you have it… a team made for each other!  Members of Morningstar Therapy Dogs have made them feel right at home, helping with Molly’s training, grooming tips, plus offering the camaraderie of people who love to share their wonderful dogs with others.

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