Therapy Dogs

How Are Dogs Used in Therapy?

client-with-booMany research studies have documented the benefits of using of animals in therapeutic settings. Besides aiding physical health, animals can enhance the mental health of people. Many people benefit from the unconditional affection from a friendly animal, especially during times of transition or difficulty.

Therapy partners like Sam, Boo, and Charley can help people feel more comfortable with the expression of emotions as well as helping those who have difficulty reading cues from their environment.

When brought into a counseling session for an individual or family, a dog might sit next to a shy or hurting person and offer some comfort merely by being there. People often open up when petting a friendly dog.

Liz Graham and each of her therapy dog partners, Sam, Charley and Boo, are registered therapy animal teams that volunteer as Pet Partners. (See below for more information on therapy dog training.)

Sam, Boo, or Charley will only join a session when appropriate and with client permission.

Meet Boo

Boo-400-therapy-dogBoo's calm, laid-back, and trusting personality has made her the most requested of Liz Graham's therapy dog partners.

A golden retriever/ labrador mix, Boo has been a therapy dog since 2010, like her sister Sam.

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Meet Sam

Sam-400-therapy-dogSam, a female golden retriever/labrador mix, has been a therapy dog for two years.

Sam is always cheerful and happy to see you. She will greet you enthusiastically with a tail that never stops wagging before settling in the session.

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Meet Charley

charley-400-therapy-dogCharley, a black labrador who came to Liz Graham as a rescue dog, brings the wisdom of his life experiences to his therapy dog sessions.

Very patient and affectionate, Charley will sit close and loves to put his chin in your lap.

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How Prairie Center Began Using Dogs as Therapy Partners

thelma-lou-therapy-dogAs a lifelong animal lover, Liz Graham first became interested in using dogs as therapy partners while working in a rehabilitation setting.

There she witnessed the healing power of this kind of interaction with people hospitalized with severe head injuries. People who did not initiate interaction or who seemed withdrawn, would often reach out to or smile when touching a furry friend.

Sam and Boo are grand-nieces of Thelma Lou – Prairie Center’s first therapy dog – who was lost to cancer in 2005.

Thelma Lou worked in the office and in a school setting where she helped teach lessons about social skills, compassion, respect for others and, after she lost her sight, sensitivity to disabilities.

How Therapy Dogs Are Trained

Liz Graham and each of her therapy dog partners, Sam, Charley and Boo, are registered therapy animal teams through the international organization Pet Partners.

To become registered therapy teams, Liz Graham and her therapy dog partners successfully completed training in the Pet Partners therapy animal program as well as basic obedicence training.pet-partners-logo

Liz and each of her dogs worked together as a team to pass an assessment of their interactions with different kinds of people and environments and other animals. Each of Liz's therapy dogs was evaluated to ensure they had the appropriate temperaments to make people feel comfortable. Liz also demonstrated her ability to maintain control of her dogs in a variety of settings.

Sam, Boo, and Charley are all eager to help and connect with people.