Snickers and I have been registered Delta Society Pet Partners since early 2008. I don’t think I’ve ever posted about why we became Pet Partners though. As I was filling out our renewal application a few months back (Pet Partners have to be re-evaluated and renew your registration every two years), I was thinking about the reasons I had originally signed us up and what Snickers and I have both learned in the time since then.
Usually when people hear “therapy dog” they instantly think of nursing homes. It is true that many therapy dogs visit nursing homes – which is awesome – but that’s not what Snick and I do. I am passionately committed to changing the future of companion animals by educating the public. Snickers loves kids. Those two facts together, led to my interest in humane education in schools. Schools, like most nursing homes and hospitals, require that dogs be registered therapy dogs (with a group providing insurance during visits, such as Delta Society) before allowing them to visit. Snick and I originally pursued becoming registered with Delta Society, so we could visit schools.
We were still living in NYC when we first became Delta Society Pet Partners and our first “job” was weekly visits with several different classes at the Gillen Brewer School in Manhattan. Visiting at Gillen Brewer was a fantastic experience. I learned a lot about the difference one person can make and I also became much more aware of how empathetic Snick is and how well he communicates – not just with other dogs, but also with people. We’re not visiting schools yet in Tupelo, but we have visited a temporary shelter for abused/displaced/neglected kids, so Snick gets his kid fix. We’re also working on becoming a R.E.A.D Team (where DID I put that manual anyway?) and then we’ll be participating in the reading program here in Tupelo.
What I’ve come to realize in the time that Snick and I have been Pet Partners is that (1) it’s critical to have a live animal on hand when you talk to kids about having empathy for animals and (2) it takes way too much work to get involved in helping to teach children how to treat animals. That’s why I’m trying to learn everything that I can, so I can build a national non-profit organization to support the use of visiting animals in public school humane education programs.