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Donald McCaig

comfort dogs

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Dogs are so special. They are so patient and forgiving with us and our shortcomings.

 

I live very close to the small town of Chardon, Ohio, where the shooting happened in the high school, February 27, 2012. I work right down the street from the Sherriff's department, and passed the SWAT team vehicle on it's way to the school that morning, wondering why it was out and where it was headed.

 

That was a horrible, horrible day. Everyone in Chardon and the surrounding areas in Geauga and Lake counties were just stunned. In the days that followed, several people I know took "comfort" dogs to the high school, and it was amazing to see what a difference these dogs made to the kids, the teachers, members of the staff. They would sit patiently with anyone that wanted to pet them, hug them, cry into their fur. They truly have healing powers.

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I always say that for most of whatever ails a person, a good dog is the best medicine. I know it's true for me.

 

I am very glad that dogs are being recognized formally more and more for their ability to contribute positively to human life. The more this is recognized and celebrated, the better dogs in general will be treated, I think.

 

One example of how the greater understanding of how helpful dogs can be to people is helping dogs is the number of programs in existence now that take shelter dogs and train them to be assistance animals. My favorite ones have prison inmates do the training of these dogs. They say that the return-to-prison rate for inmates involved in the dog training programs is extremely low; in some programs it is zero. Everyone comes out ahead: dog, inmate, and person receiving the assistance dog.

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I was privileged to have been a PetPartners, therapy dog team with my late dog, Zuri. It was amazing and obvious what benefits came along with the person/dog interactions. For the last six years of her life, Zuri was always willing to provide what was needed - entertainment, motivation, comfort. Her last four years were spent volunteering at Children’s Hospital, doing visits, rehab, and as a comfort dog for parents and families of terminally ill children. There were days that were nothing but smiles and fun, and there were days that left us both emotionally exhausted. It is a truly fulfilling experience I would recommend to anyone.

 

Dogs are truly amazing.

 

Zuri passed suddenly at only seven years old. A ruptured tumor, aggressive cancer, and in three days my life changed. I miss her terribly, but find comfort in the many wonderful memories and my recently adopted BC, Runa, who constantly reminds me that life is happening RIGHT NOW. One of the next classes for Runa will be a therapy dog course. We’ll see what the future holds.

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Ditto what's been said previously.

 

Bodhi's been doing therapy work -- much of it "comfort" work -- for over 8 years now. It always amazes me when he understands on his own when a particular person is in need of a little extra attention and TLC beyond his normal routine. He's been instrumental in bringing unresponsive nursing home residents out of their shells, providing incentive for a particularly shy kindergarten student resulting from a severe speech impediment to work harder on learning to speak well enough to be understood (just ran into her recently, now a confident, articulate middle schooler) and another with Oppositional Defiant Disorder to relax enough to interact with her teachers in more cooperatively, and other troubled students who don't interact well with other humans loosen up and relate in constructive ways.

 

It seems like such a small thing, but that contact with a dog can be truly transformative. It's why I'm looking for another dog who can fill his pawprints when he eventually has to retire.

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Celt passed his TDI training and test (barely) at just a year of age. He's never been what you'd call "sociable". I took him and Megan to the rehab facility for visits since Celt tended to weird out at certain white-haired ladies so the nursing home was not our best choice. I was ceaselessly amazed at how my "unsociable" boy would connect with the neediest of residents, like he knew those who needed him most and he instinctively gave them the interaction they benefited from best. He was certainly more intuitive than I was.

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