Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Tuesday True Stories -- Therapy Dogs

USA TodayImage via Wikipedia

Here is a post I found online at USAtoday.com.  I am reposting it here because I believe that therapy animals do not get enough publicity and they do not get enough credit for what they do.
Dogs, cats, birds, hamsters, etc. can and have been helping humans deal with obstacles and setbacks for eons.  We have finally evolved enough that we are able to recognize all of their myriad contributions to our collective well-being.  I hope you enjoy the article and click over to finish reading the post.  If you do, leave them a comment with your thoughts on the subject, won't you.
True stories of heroic dogs

We asked readers in November to tell us about pets that made a difference in 2009, and the response proved there are pet heroes everywhere. We learned about dogs and cats that comfort the sick and struggling, a dog that saved his owner's life, a canine surfer that raises money for the disabled, and many more.
A golden Labrador is a treasure for this child and her family
BETHESDA, Md. — Will Buchanan walks several steps behind his toddler at the Children's Inn at the National Institutes of Health.
Getting around is challenging for 22-month-old Haley. She has Joubert syndrome, a disease that affects balance and muscle coordination. She uses a tiny walker and wears a harness, which her dad is holding to keep her upright.
Suddenly they both smile. A big yellow dog lying in the hallway is wagging its tail at Haley. Ever so gently, her dad guides Haley to the floor to sit beside the dog. And ever so gently, Haley reaches out for the dog's muzzle. "Dog," she says. The dog stretches out a paw and touches Haley's leg.
"We have two German shepherds at home (in Dallas, N.C.), so she's really happy to see this dog," says Haley's mother, Laura Buchanan. "This makes it easier for us."
Viola, a golden Labrador, belongs to the Children's Inn, a private, non-profit residence on the NIH campus where families whose chronically ill children are being treated at NIH can stay. Mars Inc. donated Vi to the inn in 2008 after she was retired as a Seeing Eye dog. The kids can spend time alone with Vi and attend special activities with her.
"Having a dog here helps the children relax, feel more at home, and makes their treatments more bearable," says Meredith Carlson Daly, media relations coordinator at the inn. "There have been many studies done showing how beneficial animal therapy can be. We see those benefits here every day."
Tracy Wilcox knows how hard it was for her 9-year-old daughter, Breana, before Vi arrived. Breana has been getting treatments at NIH since she was 2½. She missed nearly 70 days of school last year while dealing with high fevers and chronic pain from an autoimmune inflammatory disorder. Her black Lab, Midnight, comforts her at home, Wilcox says. "He's more in tune with knowing when she's getting sick than I am."
Traveling to NIH from Boston has been stressful, says Wilcox, because Breana has to leave her dog behind. Last June, she got very upset in the airport until her mother surprised her: "I told her the inn had gotten a dog," Wilcox says. "She stopped crying right away.
"After her treatments, she'll go back to the inn, get on the floor with Vi and tell Vi all about what happened with the doctors. And it's rough stuff. When she gets home, she sits on the floor and tells Midnight all about Vi."As a parent, Vi saved us," Wilcox says. "She took away all my daughter's angst. She's gone from hating herself and her disease to looking forward to going back to the inn and getting well."
Spreading good news about Pit Bulls

When Amy Murphy first saw him in May 2008, she cried. His ribs were exposed, his skin was full of cuts and scars and matted with dirt and fleas, his throat had crush injuries and his back left leg was mangled by an infected bite.
But as much as this pit bull was suffering, he also had love in his eyes, Murphy says.Murphy volunteers for the North Mecklenburg Animal Rescue in Harrisburg, N.C. She got Gunny to a vet after getting him from a shelter several hours away a week before he was set to be euthanized.
She recalls that after the vet examined the dog, she said to Murphy, "Isn't he beautiful? He has scars that will never go away, but he smiles, he wags and he loves us strangers without a second thought. No matter what we did to him, he just loved us. I'm sure he's going to be an ambassador"
Murphy thinks Gunny was a "bait dog" in a dog-fighting ring. Bait dogs are chained and allowed to be attacked by other dogs. He had several surgeries. His back left leg was amputated, yet he is thriving in her home and in the community. Murphy says he taught people about "compassion and perseverance."
When word spread about his vet bills, the community helped raise money. Grade school students would send Murphy several dollars, promising to send more money. He became the official mascot in the Charlotte area for an educational program sponsored by the Humane Society of the United States designed to teach children and young adults that pit bulls are not fighting dogs. "Celebrate your Pit Bull" trains 13- to 22-year-olds to teach dogs obedience, agility and other positive behaviors.
Gunny's resilience stole hearts. Guyla Vardell, principal at Lebanon Road Elementary School in Charlotte, says the 800 students at her school love Gunny. He has appeared at "character assemblies" at the school. "He has captured the imaginations of our students, staff, families and friends," says Vardell. "He is one in a million."
Saved from a shelter, so he gives of himself

Brown Bear's days were numbered. He was in a high-kill shelter until Lucky Dog Animal Rescue of Washington, D.C., relocated and placed the large mixed-breed dog with a big family. His extended family totals 168 residents at the Brooke Grove Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Sandy Grove, Md. He's been there for two months, joining another dog, two cats and several birds.
"Bear is a doll," says Sue Goldstone, Brooke Grove's quality assurance coordinator. "He intuitively knew how to behave around our residents, some of whom are fragile."
Bear is a big help to people with dementia, she says: "They can often get agitated, but putting them with Bear calms them down."
Goldstone says she's grateful Lucky Dog granted his adoption to them. "We feel very fortunate to have him. The residents have company every minute of every day. Life is enhanced by the ability to walk through a building and to be able to pet a dog's muzzle or snuggle a cat."
And what better place for a dog, she adds, considering the center is on 220 acres. "Dogs that live and work here have the full run of the place. They learn how to use the elevators and get around like anyone else."
Saves his owner's life
The way Thelma Portocales tells it, she thought her husband, George, was sleeping beside her at home in bed. But that's not what Oscar, their dachshund-schnauzer, was telling her.
Thelma had taken her hearing aid out for the night and didn't hear Oscar barking at first. But bark Oscar did. Bark, and bark, and bark.
"I still thought George was right beside me in bed when Oscar came up right alongside me and barked until I got up," she says. "He led me towards the bathroom, so I went into it and turned the light on. I said, 'Look, there's nothing wrong.' But Oscar walked farther into the bathroom and stood beside George."
Her husband of 30 years had passed out. She called 911. Medics revived him and rushed him to the hospital. Later they told her Oscar probably saved George's life. He suffered no permanent damage from the cardiac episode and was released from the hospital after four days.
"If it hadn't been for Oscar, he probably wouldn't have made it," Thelma says. "Oscar is precious. George gives him special treatment every day. He just can't get enough of him."
He's a first dog for the Millsboro, Del., couple. Great timing: They adopted Oscar from the Delaware SPCA on Aug. 8. George collapsed Sept. 4.
To read the rest of the stories please click here.
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