East Central Therapy Dogs

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Photo Karen Graham
Diane McMillan is presented with an award acknowledging her 24 years of service to East Central Therapy Dogs by Brion Aubrey with her companion Bella who has served for 14 years.

There is something very soothing about interacting with a gentle, friendly pet.   Scientific evidence has demonstrated both physical benefits as well as emotional ones from animal interaction which can provide comfort and reduce anxiety.

East Central Therapy Dogs volunteers take their approachable and affectionate dogs to institutions around the community to allow residents who cannot keep pets to benefit from interaction with their own screened and trained dogs, providing comfort and joy to residents in long term care homes and hospitals.  The volunteers also make regular trips to secondary and post-secondary schools during exam periods to provide stress-relief sessions for students.

Known as Therapy dogs, these specially trained pets are undeterred by human illness, handicap, disfigurement, confusion or tears, with no prejudice against creed, colour, religion or politics.  They have a unique ability to calm the anxious, cheer the lonely, distract the pain-ridden and comfort the despondent. They can coax a smile and rekindle happy memories with the wag of a tail, and stroking a dog has been shown to lower blood pressure.  Seeing a dog thread its way through a corridor full of gurneys, drip poles and wheelchairs can restore a sense of balance, and an appreciation for life outside the high tech walls of modern medicine.

Volunteers from East Central Therapy Dogs have been visiting in the Peterborough area since 2002 and currently have 75 members visiting with their dogs providing over 5000 volunteer hours each year.  They visit nursing and retirement homes in Peterborough, Millbrook and Lakefield, VON day care centres, Community Living centres, local group homes and the Peterborough Regional Health Centre, and give presentations to other service organizations and community groups as well as local schools.

All therapy dogs are temperament- tested before being accepted into the program and must be calm and confident in a crowded, institutional setting.  Testing simulates situations the dogs are likely to encounter in a nursing home or hospital environment and include reactions to sudden noises, other dogs, wheelchairs and elevators. Successful candidates receive training and orientation and are accompanied by an experienced volunteer for their initial visit to ensure they are comfortable with the process and are able to deliver therapeutic care.

The non-profit organization is self-supporting.  Funds from annual calendar sales provide uniforms, leashes and third party liability insurance coverage for service providers and volunteers cover their own expenses including travel.

Therapy dogs are obedient, loving family pets whose owners share with people in nursing homes, hospitals and other institutions to bring a little love into the daily routine. If you have a calm and friendly dog, consider bringing their unconditional love to those are no longer able to have a pet of their own.  For more information, visit www.ectd.ca or email admin@ectd.ca.   KG

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