Saturday, November 21, 2009

Service Dog in Training

Agape Pet Therapy has teamed with Brookhaven Animal Rescue League in the training of a service dog for a young, disabled woman. We met this past week to select a potential dog from the shelter. While APT has trained dogs in the past, we have not been involved in the training of a service dog prior to this. We are very excited to work with Paris and Clover.

We hope to train Clover not only to be a friend and companion, but also to retrieve items for Paris that are dropped or needed. We'll update as training progresses!

Please keep APT lifted up in prayer as we follow where God leads.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Losing is Part of Loving

This month welcomes in the fifth year that we have been visiting residents at Brook Manor Golden Living facility. It has always blessed me that every resident has been touched by our ministry in one way or another. Most everyone loves the visit from the kids and the dogs, and the ones who are not "dog lovers" still enjoy the kids.

We've formed friendships with several of the residents over the years. We have come to look forward to seeing them as much as they look forward to seeing us. A few have blessed my heart. Two in particular that I want to tell you about...

(Names changed to protect identity.)

Mrs. Smith was one of the first people we really formed a close friendship with. She had raised Border Collies in her younger years. She loved the DOGS and KIDS, and always welcomed them into her room with treats and candy. She also reminded me of my grandmother... both in her mannerisms and appearance. I enjoyed visiting her as it made me feel closer to my grandmother who lives 300 miles away and I rarely get to see these days.

Another resident who always made me smile was Mrs. Dillon. Mrs. Dillon had been a school teacher and raised poodles for many years. She was delighted when the children and dogs would pop into her room. Though she was unable to see or to speak, her mind was clear and her smile was bright. Sometimes even when she couldn't mutter a word to us, she'd force herself to be able to speak to the dogs. They were close to her heart.

People like these are a huge reason why we have continued in this ministry and are now becoming more active in it. They aren't the only reason though....

At the beginning of the year we met a young cancer patient. This precious, four year old girl stole my heart. We didn't meet her in a hospital, but in Wal-Mart. She was getting a new puppy and was picking the perfect pink collar for it when we started a conversation with her mother. In the months that followed this beautiful, little girl was in and out of the hospital. During that time the desire to take our dogs into hospitals became stronger. It had long been our goal, but now we had a reason.

In September our first dog became TDI certified. While Scarlet had visited nursing homes her whole life, she was now capable of doing so much more. Unfortunately our young friend passed away before Scarlet was able to visit her in the hospital.

Within the past two weeks, Mrs. Smith and Mrs. Dillon have also passed away. These three people were very special to us. Each of them have helped bring us to where we are today. We loved them and have grieved them. It is my hope and desire that through our ministry, they would be honored. They will always be remembered in our hearts for all they taught us and for all they shared with us.

We have often told our children that losing is part of living and that it is part of loving too. But the loving is what makes it all worth while.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

What is a Therapy Dog?

From Wikipedia:

A therapy dog is a dog trained to provide affection and comfort to people in hospitals, retirement homes, nursing homes, schools, with people with learning difficulties and stressful situations such as disaster areas.

Therapy dogs come in all sizes and breeds. The most important characteristic of a therapy dog is its temperament. A good therapy dog must be friendly, patient, confident, at ease in all situations, and gentle. Therapy dogs must enjoy human contact and be content to be petted and handled, sometimes clumsily.

A therapy dog's primary job is to allow unfamiliar people to make physical contact with it and to enjoy that contact. Children in particular enjoy hugging animals; adults usually enjoy simply petting the dog. The dog might need to be lifted onto, or climb onto, an invalid's lap or bed and sit or lie comfortably there. Many dogs contribute to the visiting experience by performing small tricks for their audiences or by playing carefully structured games.

To learn more, visit Therapy Dog International .