The Cavalier, King Charles, Spaniel was originally bred to be a comfort and companion dog. What better heritage to serve as an Animal Assisted Therapy Pet Partner! It is said that most toys breeds are in this world for humans to love them and that the Cavalier is in this world to love humans! Pet Cavaliers make for wonderful service animals and Cavaliers participating in confirmation shows and retired champions serve as Animal Assisted Therapy Dogs as well.
by Lois M. Abrams, Ph.D.
What does it take to be an Animal Assisted Therapy Pet Partner? The two key elements are:
1) A dog that has the temperament of warmth, love and companionship to humans
2) A human that has the dedication to give of their time, warmth and care to other humans in need. [I believe I just described a Cavalier and its owner.]
The requirements are:
1) Passing the Canine Good Citizen Test and the Temperament Test. [Testing is done by a certified evaluator.]
2) The dog must be one year of age and the handler 12 years of age with adult supervision. The majority of handlers are adults.
To learn the specifics of becoming a Pet Partner team here is Duke’s Story...
Hi There! I am an ANIMAL ASSISTED THERAPY DOG. I live and work with my owner and handler Lois Abrams. We help make people of all ages feel better. We visit homes for abused kids, shelters for adults, youth and children, Ronald MacDonald House, nursing homes, assisted living homes for seniors and rehabilitation hospitals. Pet Partners such as dogs, cats, rabbits, and hamsters belong to Delta Society and work with their human pet partners. We are members ofCreate-A-Smile in Orange County, CA. I have been working with Lois; I call her “Mom”, since I turned one year of age. I love seeing all those people we visit, smile and laugh playing with me and my animal friends and their human partners.
I thought you might like to know how I became a pet partner. Lois began training me when I was just a puppy. Some of my friends that I work with were trained as adult animals. Mom helped me by taking me with her to places that were inside and outside like offices, stores and shopping malls.
I learned not to be afraid of loud noises, wheelchairs, crutches and walkers, and all types of human beings from babies to old people and even teenagers—those skateboards and roller-blades can really startle you. I learned to greet people and let them pet me and even look at my teeth. One of the hard parts was having food put in front of me and I couldn’t eat it---even my favorite snack hot dog---until Lois said it was all right. We went to “dog school” for obedience training when I was so little I thought the other dogs would eat me. I got used to being with big dogs, little, noisy dogs, and middle size dogs. I learned to play with them and not be afraid or aggressive. I stayed in obedience training until I was ready to pass my CANINE GOOD CITIZEN TEST. We “working dogs” must pass this test 100%. I heel when I walk and come when I am called. I learned to sit and go down when I am told. I stay in a down or sit until I am called. This really helps when I am with my pet partner buddies and pictures are being taken of us with one of the people we visit. I will stay with a stranger when told to do so and let them pet me and touch me---even if they are rough or awkward with their touch.
The second part of my testing was for my “Skills” as a therapy dog. All those things Lois desensitized me to as a puppy. I only had to pass this test 80% and I made it! We get reevaluated every two years and have to make a visit at least once a month. I really love being a therapy dog and CREATING ALL THOSE SMILES.
Sheeba Anakin, "Duke" began his work as an Animal Assisted Therapy Dog when he was a year old. Duke and owner-trainer Lois Abrams, Ph.D. were certified by Therapy Dogs International and The Delta Society. They are active members of Delta Society’s Create-A-Smile, Orange County, CA.
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