There is no psychiatrist in the world like a puppy licking your face.
- Ben Williams
My goal in life is to be as good of a person my dog already thinks I am.
- Author Unknown
A DOG owns NOTHING, yet is seldom dissatisfied.
- Irish Proverb
Bright and Beautiful Therapy Dogs of Houston
-People Helping Dogs Helping People
Did you know that there have been a number of scientific studies conducted by the medical community which have found that therapy dogs provide distinct health benefits to several different communities of people in need? For example, Kawamura, Niiyama and Niiyama (2009) wrote an article in the Journal of Psychosocial Nursing summarizing their study of the interactions of elderly patients confined to nursing homes and therapy dogs. They found that regular animal assisted therapy visits, specifically those by dogs, helped the patients broaden their interactions with other residents and provided them with a unique means to express themselves. The visits were also a refreshing change to their daily routines. These scientific findings supported those of other scientists who determined that therapy dog visits significantly reduced agitation and loneliness to seniors residing in assisted living facilities.
Mccauley (2006) writing in the Journal of Rehabilitation Research and Development found that hospital patients undergoing rehabilitation after a stroke were more motivated to engage in therapy sessions when they involved animal assisted therapy. The stroke patients told researchers that their rehabilitation sessions were less stressful and more enjoyable when therapy dogs participated rather than when they only participated in traditional therapy sessions. According to scholars who have examined the phenomenon associated with therapy dogs, children who tend to be especially fascinated with dogs are especially likely to benefit from Animal Assisted Therapy.
While our "pet therapists" visit children in hospitals and rehabilitation facilities to encourage them to get well soon, we also have dogs that help kids with their reading comprehension skills. In fact, our volunteers visit several schools where their canine companions provide a willing set of ears for children that struggle with reading to build their intellectual capacity.
Research by Geist (2010) published in the Child Adolescent Social Work Journal shows that Animal Assisted Therapy in the educational context works because kids perceive dogs to be non judgmental and supportive in a manner that humans may not. Our volunteers will be the first to confirm that therapy dogs help children cope with stressful situations and improve their ability to learn because kids know they can have a relationship with a dog that is worry free and less stressful than would be with a human tutor.
So enough with the scientific research. This is, after all, a website about the Houston B&BTD chapter, and we'll ask you to just trust us about all the research that has been done in this field and the effectiveness of animal assisted therapy. The discussion of how therapy dogs assist humans both young and old and of all ages in between is important because it explains why we do what we do.
If you ask members of our chapter why they became involved in sharing their pets in nursing homes, hospitals, schools, rehabilitation facilities or other places that we visit you might get a few different answers. Many of them will simply explain that we are involved in animal assisted therapy because we believe our dogs have the ability to help people in a way the we as humans alone simply cannot achieve. Therapy Dog teams from our chapter visit patients at the Memorial Hermann Children's Hospital in the Medical Center and the Ronald McDonald House Campus located nearby. It is truly a joy to share a few moments of relief when we take our dogs to visit young patients undergoing treatment that are often away from home and afraid of intimidating medical procedures. Sometimes our dogs remind them of the dogs they had to leave back home while they are undergoing treatment here in Houston. Other times, they are just excited and happy to have a momentary distraction from the difficulties that accompany treatment programs. The therapy dog teams are often a relief and provide happiness to parents and accompanying relatives who are also under a great deal of stress during the treatment process.
Our teams visit seven different assisted living facilities and they often provide a very welcome change in the daily routines of senior citizens. Unfortunately, the therapy dog teams are the only visitors some of the folks in the nursing homes ever receive. Sometimes, our therapy dog teams bring back joyful and heartfelt memories of past pets for seniors. There have even been some instances in which nursing home patients who are depressed and do not want to interact with staff have suddenly engaged in conversations with our therapy dogs about what bothers them.
Members of our chapter are also active at several elementary schools in our communities. Our therapy dog teams provide a means to reduce inhibitions and bring out characteristics in children that help them learn to read. These visits also provide a very important outlet to educate children about how to interact with dogs, and the benefits of canine companionship. We are confident that these positive interactions will help socialize children for lifetimes of constructive and responsible pet ownership experiences.
Our organization seeks to help people work with their dogs and provide the resources needed to achieve the benefits therapy dogs offer. We also believe that people who care enough to share the passion of doing this type of volunteer work with their dogs should not pay extraordinary fees to get certifications and meet other standards in order to do so.
• B&BTD is dedicated to working with potential therapy dog teams in order to help them obtain their certifications.
• The Houston Chapter of B&BTD offers certification evaluations periodically for those interested in joining our organization and visiting facilities.
• We also work to educate the public about the benefits of animal assisted therapy and to define and explain the process of completing the certification process.
• One question commonly asked by potential members is what training is required for a dog to be certified as a therapy dog. We work to describe the training standards required for certification, but do not provide any type of formal training classes at this time.
• Finally, we work to facilitate the visitation process by organizing teams and coordinating with facilities where visits are requested.