Saturday, September 19, 2015

Ten Year Anniversary of Pawsitive Comfort Therapy Dogs

September marks the 10th Anniversary of the Pawsitive Comfort Therapy Dog Program at St. Joseph Chelsea Hospital.

In the Summer of 2005 I was looking for somewhere to visit with my Therapy Dog Leo.  We wanted to volunteer in our hometown so I contacted Chelsea Hospital and was put in touch with Recreational Therapist Jan Shamraj.  Together Jan and I worked with the staff of Chelsea Hospital to build this amazing program.  It was no easy task, but the end result is a program like no other and I am honored to be a part of it.

In the early days Leo and I visited every Friday on the Head Pain unit, we were the only team back then.  We visited patients on Head Pain as well as participating in Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy and Speech Therapy sessions.   There was no shortage of patients and staff wanting to spend time with Leo.

Today there are 12 teams visiting various areas of the hospital and many wonderful dogs who have since retired.

In 2013 Enzo came on board  and has done a wonderful job following in his mentor Leos pawprints.  When Enzo is not volunteering at Chelsea Hospital he is helping kids learn to read at local elementary schools.

Our newest addition to the team is Carmine, he is training and visiting at the Cancer Center.   When he finishes his training he will be moving to Kentucky where he will live with his new family and work at the University of Kentucky Gill Heart Institute.

The teams of Pawsitive Comfort are tested and registered with Allegiance of Therapy Dogs, a national Therapy Dog Program.  We have the highest standards for our teams and provide ongoing training and support.   We screen each team to ensure the 'goodness of fit' for our program.

As an ongoing support for our community, many of the Therapy Dogs of Pawsitive Comfort are members of Canine Comfort Crisis Response Therapy Dogs, a group I helped form in 2012.  Canine Comfort offers support to local communities in times of crisis or a tragic event.

Here's to many more years!!!!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Play Now Or Pay Later

 You can teach an old dogs new tricks but you can't teach them to be comfortable in their own skin.  There is a critical window of opportunity to socialize puppies, birth to approximately 16 weeks of age.  During this time puppies are forming life long opinions of how they 'feel' about the world around them.  This includes people, places, sounds, smells, surfaces and especially other dogs.

I recently read a great article called 'The Dog Aggression Epidemic' and it was spot on.  Those of us who work with dogs are seeing a dramatic increase in aggression, specifically dog-to-dog aggression.

The sad thing about this is, for the most part it's preventable.  How do we change things?  We start with educating Vets, Breeders, Shelters, Owners and Trainers about the importance of early socialization!!

To address concerns regarding safety, here is the AVSAB's position on early socialization with regard to vaccinations and disease.

We know that waiting until a puppy is fully vaccinated,  to allow them to play with other dogs, can put them at risk for fearful, anxious, aggressive behavior towards other dogs for a lifetime.  While there are other factors that can influence behavior problems, lack of early socialization tops the list!!

What are the benefits for well socialized puppies?

If you've lived with a fearful, reactive or aggressive dog, you know all to well the heartache and livelong struggles.  The risks to adult dogs, just to name a few:
  • Isolation
  • Frustration
  • Anxiety
  • Aggression
  • Losing their home
  • Losing their LIFE
The advantages for well socialized dogs:
  • Confidence
  • Adventures
  • Calm and relaxed
  • Freedom to go more places
  • Dog Friends
  • Exercise and walks
  • Quality of life 
It's our responsibility to help our puppies get off to a great start in life.  You only have one chance to get it right and your dogs life may very well depend on it.  I've never met a person who regretted the time they put into properly socializing their puppy.  I have however, worked with countless families who live with the regret for not having done it.

We work closely with families to help develop socialization and play programs for puppies that promote safe and positive play experiences.