The power of companionship in healing
The strength of the human-canine bond is one for the ages. Dogs can instantly inspire a smile and provide hope and happiness. Alliance of Therapy Dogs (ATD) is a national nonprofit that vets, tests, observes and provides support and insurance coverage to pet therapy teams (dogs and handlers) across the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico – including right here in Castle Pines.
Pet therapy can provide comfort to so many – those with heaviness from tragedy, mental and physical health struggles, school difficulties, and end-of-life grief. The examples and benefits are endless.
“Our services are free. Anyone who feels their day could be brightened by a visit can request a volunteer visit through our website,” shared Amy Brockel, Executive Director for Alliance of Therapy Dogs.
Amy is not only the executive director at ATP but also a volunteer handler and tester/observer. “I volunteer in my community with my therapy dog, Leroy, a 7-year-old Doberman. He lives to be loved by humans,” she said. Later this month, Amy and Leroy will start a new venture at their local county detention center.
When an ATP visit is requested, it is forwarded to local area teams. Handlers are encouraged to accept assignments that are a good fit. For instance, some dogs enjoy brief visits and others have stamina for longer ones.
Volunteers set their own schedules and choose where to give their time. Teams must volunteer a minimum of once every three months to keep in good standing. Opportunities might include in-home or facility visits. “Pet therapy is one of the most rewarding activities you can enjoy with your dog,” shared Amy.
Within 10 miles of Castle Pines, there are 55 ATD pet therapy teams, and within a 25-mile radius, there are more than 200. In total, ATP has 17,000 volunteers. “We are always looking for more volunteers to serve the communities they live in,” offered Amy.
For volunteer eligibility, dogs must be at least 1 year old, and the handler must own or have been in a close relationship with the dog for at least six months. Excellent manners, no aggression, overall good health, well-groomed and being able to work around medical equipment are some of the requirements necessary to be sure this volunteer opportunity is a good fit. A complete list of requirements is available on the ATP website.
“The smiles and joy shared by our teams is hard to explain, but once you’ve experienced it, you can really understand the impact our teams have on the communities they serve,” concluded Amy.
If you or someone you know would benefit from pet therapy, if you and your dog are interested in volunteering as a pet therapy team or to make a donation, visit www.therapydogs.com.
By Elean Gersack; photos provided by Alliance of Therapy Dogs and Terri Wiebold