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Tag: therapy dogs

Funeral homes find dogs comfort mourners

lulu

Funeral directors are increasingly turning to dogs to help comfort mourners, the Associated Press reports.

Therapy dogs, they’re finding, not only help soothe grieving friends and family members, but they can serve to lighten up the overly somber atmosphere that is the norm in many a funeral home.

When a dog joins a group of mourners, “the atmosphere changes,” said Mark Krause, owner and president of Krause Funeral Home and Cremation Service in Milwaukee. “In a funeral home, people are typically on edge, uncomfortable. But everyone lights up, everyone has to greet the dog.”

Krause bought Oliver, a Portuguese water dog, in 2001. His wife had Oliver trained to be a therapy dog at schools, nursing homes, hospitals.

“Then my wife said, ‘Why can’t he do this in the funeral home?’ and in the 10-plus years we had him, he probably touched a couple thousand families,” Krause said. Oliver seemed to “sense grief and who needed him.”

Krause remembers one 7-year-old boy who had lost his 3-year-old sister and had stopped talking, even to his parents.

“The minute the dog came in, the boy started talking to him about his sister,” Krause said. “This little boy tells the dog, ‘I don’t know why everyone’s so upset, my sister said she’s fine where she is.’”

“I don’t suppose Oliver understood, but he looked at the boy as if he did,” Krause added.

When Oliver died in 2011 — about 150 people attended his funeral — the Krauses bought another Portuguese water dog, Benny.

While no statistics are kept on dogs in funeral homes, Jessica Koth, spokeswoman for the National Funeral Directors Association, said, “We hear from members that more and more of them are bringing animals into funeral homes … whether it’s a certified therapy dog or just an extremely well-behaved family pet.”

At the Ballard-Durand funeral home in White Plains, N.Y., Sandy Del Duca was mourning the death of her father when Lulu, a goldendoodle, came down the stairs and greeted her.

“That dog looked into my eyes and I was done,” Del Duca said. “She seemed to know just what I needed. A funeral is a funeral, it’s not a great thing. But that dog gave the service a family atmosphere and made it more of a celebration.”

When mourners come to the funeral home to make arrangements, owner Matthew Fiorillo asks if they’d like to meet Lulu and tells them she’s available — at no extra charge — for wakes and funerals. Almost all have accepted.

Funeral directors say dogs can lighten the awkward, tense atmosphere at a wake or funeral service, and sometimes seem to know exactly who needs their help.

Gayle Armes, owner of the Armes-Hunt funeral homes in Fairmount and Marion, Indiana, says his dog Judd, a golden retriever, serves a vital function by giving mourners “something else to focus on.”

“The ones who need it, they tend to go over to him, maybe kneel and love on him and he loves on them,” Armes said.

(Photo: Lulu, a goldendoodle who works as a therapy dog at Ballard-Durand funeral home in White Plains, N.Y.; by Jim Fitzgerald / The Associated Press)

Therapy dog booted, based on his biker duds

San Diego’s most famous therapy dog has lost his certification — and all because of his biker outfit.

Chopper the Biker Dog was certified by Pet Partners, and over the past five years he has visited thousands of people in hospitals, schools and senior living centers up and down the West Coast.

But suddenly, after all that time, his biker duds have been ruled “innapropriate,” ABC 10 News reported.

Pet Partners has informed his owner, Mark Shaffer, that the certification was suspended because it did not approve of Chopper’s biker outfit. Chopper wears a leather vest and a bandana and, when he’s on his motorcycle, a helmet and some pretty cool goggles.

Shaffer got the news after he and Chopper returned from an 11-day trip to Oregon, stopping at VA hospitals and police departments every day along the trip.

chopper“Disbelief,” Shaffer said of the decision. “There was anger and there was a lot of hurt.”

In a statement, Pet Partners explained that “the use of costumes and clothing in an animal-assisted therapy environment raises a number of concerns for the animal, the handler and the clients or patients being seen … Pet Partners harbors no ill will towards motorcycle enthusiasts. Holiday costumes, tutus or clothing other than a scarf are also not allowed.”

“We wish Mark and Chopper all the best and hope that they will continue to bring smiles to the people they meet. Mark did receive written warning to correct the behavior before the suspension to follow the appropriate protocol. He is free to dress Chopper as he pleases, just not while volunteering at facilities as a therapy animal team.”

Shaffer said that — rather than taking Chopper out of his biker outfit — he will seek certification from another therapy dog organization. He’s getting a lot of support for his decision on his Facebook page.

“They claim they don’t allow dogs in costumes,” said Shaffer. “This is not a costume,” “This is his persona. This is what he is.”

(Photo: From Chopper’s Facebook page)

Recognizing a gift when it lands in your lap

Nala isn’t an officially certified therapy dog.

Her presence at a Minnesota nursing home, apparently, didn’t require her owner to navigate a bureaucracy or fill out mounds of paperwork.

She was never trained to make people feel better. She just, like many a dog, magically does.

The tiny teacup poodle, who comes to work with her owner — medications assistant Doug Dawson — makes the rounds daily at the Lyngblomsten care center, somehow figuring out not just how to ride the elevator to get from room to room, but who at the nursing home might most need a visit from her.

It’s another one of those feel-good stories about a dog bringing comfort, hope and smiles to residents of an otherwise impersonal institution.

Let’s hope this one doesn’t get crushed.

On Wednesday, we told you about Ivy — a Siberian husky whose owner, a janitor at a University of Rhode Island dormitory, brings her to work with him everyday. And how Ivy, through bonding with the students who live there, has made it, in the view of most, a better place to be. And how the university, after the school newspaper ran a feature about the dog, banned Ivy from campus — even though she is certified as a therapy dog — citing things like rules and liability concerns.

Today we bring you Nala, who, fortunately, is spreading her magic at a facility that — rather than fretting about pests, bites and liability — seems to recognize a gift when it sees one.

Dawson brings Nala to work with him each morning, then lets her go her own way.

She spends the day popping into the rooms of residents, hopping in their laps and getting petted and nuzzled before moving on to the next room, according to this report by KARE 11

“She’s an angel,” 90-year-old resident Ruth New said. “I love her and she loves me.”

Nala, Dawson says, seems to have an uncanny knack for knowing who needs a visit, and knowing how to get there, even when it involves riding the four-story building’s elevator.

nala“There’s something about her,” said Dawson, who inherited Nala after she failed in her debut as a potential therapy dog at another facility.

He says Nala was too young at the time, and had spent too much time in a kennel.

Now 5 years old, Nala has redeemed herself at Lyngblomsten.

“If you put her down she’ll pick out the person with Alzheimer’s,” said Dawson. “She has a way of picking the sick.”

After the recent death of one resident, Nala entered her room and stationed herself at her side.

“She had died earlier in the morning, but Nala knew and went and sat with her,” said Sandy Glomski, a Lyngblomsten staffer. “It was wonderful and we were all in tears.”

Dawson says he’s constantly amazed by both Nala’s compassion and her ability to navigate the nursing home’s floors on her own.

“She’s here for a purpose,” he said. “She really is doing God’s work.”

That’s kind of what dogs will do when humans — and especially bureaucrats — don’t get in the way,

When a feel good story has feel bad results

ivy

A heartwarming little story in the University of Rhode Island student newspaper — about a janitor who brings his dog to work — has apparently led to a cold-hearted response by administrators: Ivy must go.

Mike LaPolice, who keeps Peck Hall clean, started bringing  Ivy to work with him soon after he adopted her a year and a half ago.

The Siberian husky followed LaPolice, who has worked for the university for 25 years, as he performed his duties at the dormitory, and she quickly became popular among students, who enjoyed petting her and taking her picture.

LaPolice got Ivy certified as a therapy dog — though in reality she was probably bringing students comfort and relieving their stress even before she got her degree.

Then, last Thursday,  The Good 5 Cent Cigar, which is the student newspaper,  ran a story  about the janitor and his dog.

Almost immediately, LaPolice received word from the university’s Department of Housing and Residential Life that — if he wanted to keep his job — his dog needed to leave the campus and not come back.

“Nobody will tell me who has a problem with Ivy,” LaPolice told the student newspaper in a follow-up piece. “All of the … staff that I’ve talked to keep referring to some person who doesn’t like her being here, but I don’t know who that is.”

Even before Ivy got banned from campus, LaPolice was aware his dog’s presence was a concern among some administrators. That was part of the reason he got her certified as a therapy dog. Dorm residents knew the dog was an issue, too. Last year they presented a petition to school officials, urging she be allowed to stay in the residence hall.

But for the past seven months, the issue seemed to have subsided, and it appeared school officials were willing to overlook Ivy’s presence in the dormitory, which, technically, is a violation of school rules.

Somehow, the newspaper story reignited the drive to remove Ivy from campus.

“I’m trying not to regret running this piece, because we never could have anticipated this outcome,” the newspaper’s editor, Allison Farrelly, said in an interview with CollegeMediaMatters.com. ”I feel sick about it though, that we could have played a hand in negatively impacting not just this man’s life, but the lives of all the students Ivy touched.”

“It still doesn’t make sense to me that HRL could have reacted so strongly to our article, but I don’t feel defeated yet because I don’t think we’ve done everything we can to right this. I told my staff this, but I think there is a good chance if the student body gets behind our reporting, we can right this.”

LaPolice told the student newspaper he might talk to his doctor to figure out if he can be permitted to keep Ivy with him because of a medical need.

“I’ll go to a psychiatrist if I have to,” he said.

Another petition is being talked about among those students who want to keep Ivy in Peck Hall — many of whom say they’ve benefited from her presence.

The Department of Housing and Residential Life issued this statement yesterday:

“Staff members of the University’s Department of Housing and Residential Life became aware of an employee bringing a dog to Peck Hall late last summer. Since that time, housing staff has met repeatedly with the employee to ask him to leave the dog at home. The University does not permit its employees to bring their pets to work, unless they are service animals.

“While we understand the bond students may have formed with an animal brought into their residence hall, the University must consider the precedent that this sets and the welfare of the entire community, including potential liability in the event of a dog bite and issues around sanitation, pests and allergies.

“There are avenues for addressing employee accommodation requests under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act and the employee was referred to Human Resources for that process. To date, Human Resources has not received an official request from the employee for accommodations under the federal law.”

There are no reports of Ivy biting anyone, provoking any allergic reactions, or bringing any “pests” into the dorm.

Instead, students say she has brought comfort and cheer.

“In September, a relationship that I was in came to an end and hit me pretty hard with the feels,” said one. “Ivy jumped up on the couch and laid down next to me with her head on my chest because she could sense that I was upset.”

“On a particularly tough day, Ivy wandered into my office and just put her head on my leg,” said another, who serves as a resident assistant at Peck Hall. “How could I possibly stay focused on such negativity in my life with that beautiful, loving dog looking right up at me?”

(Photo: By Donald Reuker / The Good 5 Cent Cigar)

California mom finds the shelter dog she adopted can help detect her seizures

When Danielle Zuckerman adopted a pit bull named Thor from a California shelter, she was seeking a companion for herself and her son.

She has gotten that, as well an early warning system.

Zuckerman, a former Navy nuclear scientist who has seizures as a result of a spinal cord injury, says it was just days after she brought Thor home that the otherwise quiet dog jumped in her lap and started barking.

“I didn’t know what was going on, I thought something was maybe wrong with him, and about 10 to 15 minutes later I had a seizure,” she said.

Seven more times over the next two months, Thor did the same thing, and each time Zuckerman was on the brink of a seizure.

Thor, as far as anybody knows, never had any training as a service dog, or seizure detection dog.

The early warnings from Thor allow Zuckerman to take a new medication that cuts the length of her seizure from five minutes to 90 seconds.

And his presence gives her a sense of security she didn’t have before.

“I feel so much more comfortable, going out in public and going to do things, because when you’re an epileptic, you don’t have control over your own body,” said Zuckerman, who lives in Nevada County.

Thor was adopted from Sammy’s Friends in Grass Valley. Cheryl Wicks, who runs the shelter, told CBS 13 in Sacramento, she was thrilled when she heard about Thor’s skills.

“My hair stood up, I got chills, I got teary eyed,” she said. “This woman adopts a dog to have a pet and then she gets all this. It can, like, change her life.”

Therapy dog can’t see the smiles he brings

smiley

Born with dwarfism, and without eyes, a golden retriever named Smiley is bringing comfort and joy to hospital patients, school students and nursing home residents in the small town of Stouffville, Canada.

Rescued from a puppy mill when he was one or two years old, Smiley was timid at first, said his owner, Joanne George.

“He was very scared,” she recalled. “[The dogs] had never been out of that barn.”

But as he came out of his shell, she saw that he had a personality worth sharing:

“People were so drawn to him, so inspired by him.” George told CBS News. “I realized this dog has to be a therapy dog — I have to share him.”

Smiley joined the St. John Ambulance Therapy Dog program and, now 12 years old, still spends several hours a day dropping in on patients at retirement homes, visiting with special needs children in a library reading program and comforting patients at nursing homes near Stouffville.

George said when she first brought him home Smiley quickly bonded with another one of her dogs, a deaf Great Dane named Tyler.

“Tyler was so bouncy and crazy and happy go lucky and [Smiley] turned into the same dog,” George said. “He came out from underneath the tables where he was always hiding.”

“Dogs can come back from anything, they forget their past,” George said. “We as humans dwell on the past.”

One of Smiley’s favorite people to visit is a man named Teddy, who lives in a nursing home and, up until he met the dog, hadn’t uttered a sound.

“One day, Smiley put his feet up in front of [Teddy] and he started smiling and making noise,” George said. “All of the nurses rushed into the room and said they’ve never seen him smile — never seen any kind of reaction.”

Now every time Smiley visits the nursing home, Teddy is the first person he sees.

After caring for Smiley for 10 years, George says she has learned a lot about how to care for blind dogs: “Don’ t be his eyes, don’t run his life, don’t’ keep him in a bubble … Does he bump into things? Of course, he does. But he does it very carefully.”

George said Smiley changed her life — and was there for many memorable moments. “He came on my first date with me. He was my ring bearer at my wedding.”  He has also brightened up the lives of hundreds more.

Even now, as he nears the end of his, she says — his fur getting whiter, his steps slower — his “tail will never stop wagging.”

(Photo: Joanne George’s Facebook page)

Raising funds to provide therapy dogs for victims of sex trafficking

A non-profit organization has launched a campaign to sell dog collars and leashes to raise money to place therapy dogs in homes and shelters serving sex trafficking victims.

Eye Heart World, an organization that creates products to raise funds and awareness for social causes, is launching a campaign called “Walk the Cause” this week.

The sale of every leash and collar set will go toward purchasing therapy dogs to help victims of human trafficking.

The dogs will be placed in aftercare homes for victims and used in court during the interview process.

“These wonderful pups provide a sense of security, comfort, and something these girls will desperately need in this time of restoration,” the organization said in a press release.

It’s similar to a project the organization started in January of 2010 — called “Carry the Cause” — which sold handbags. All American made, each handbag bears an orange rose, the color representing human trafficking awareness.

Under the “Walk the Cause” project, $100 from the sale of every leather leash and collar set goes toward placing therapy dogs in homes and facilities to help victims of human trafficking.

The first dogs will likely placed at facilities in Atlanta and Denver, according to Eye Heart World founder Season Russo. The dogs will be purchased from Smeraglia, a dog breeding company, and will be trained by Teddy Bear Goldendoodles.