Pet Therapy visits give lots of smiles to patients. In Torrington, WY we meet the third Wednesday of each month.
Miss Kitty shown with her "working" hat is an International Certified Therapy Dog.
For places and times call 532-3861.
For those of you unfamiliar with pet therapy work, it is visiting hospitals, nursing homes or facilities where patients are confined.
There are two main organizations that teach classes on pet therapy. One is Pet Therapy International and the other is The Delta Society.
It seems easy to just take your pet for someone to pet, but there are rules to follow.
All pets MUST have all necessary vaccinations and be under the supervision of a veterinarian.
You pet must already be socialized. A "darling angel" at home does NOT mean it would make a good therapy pet. Pets will often be confused and scared when outside of their environment. This could result in bites or scratches. A nursing home is not the place to socialize your pet.
Pets are to be well groomed. A bath is not always necessary as there are many products that clean the coat as you bush. During brushing, check for doggie order and evidence of external parasites. Trim nails and brush teeth.
Plan to dress neatly and comfortable. Many facilities are quite warm.
Pack a small bag with articles to take such as:
Small bowl for water and water, if needed.
Clean-up materials so you will be prepared. Paper towels and plastic bags.
Your TDI card (if your dog belongs to Therapy Dogs International, Inc.)
Towel to use if pet can go in client's lap or bed or as needed if pet drools.
All dogs are to be kept on leashes at all times, except when warranted.
Patients CAN injure pets, either from deliberate abuse, unintentional mishandling or benign negligence. It is YOUR responsibility to see that your pet is not hurt. CLOSELY SUPERVISE YOUR PET AT ALL TIMES. Patients will often pet very hard or many hug very hard. Present your pet with its face away from the resident. Keep your hand between the strokes of the resident and your pet until you distingush how hard the resident is petting. When in doubt, just let the patient "look". Remember--the patients are there for a good reason.
Most large pets are able to stand or sit by a resident without too much trouble. But watch out for their feet and tails, as wheelchairs roll and walkers move. Let your pet have plenty of room to move around to protect itself.
Be aware if your pet becomes stressed--signs of stress include panting, yawning, sneezing, shyness, dilated pupils, reluctance to go and see a person, pacing/over activity, underactivity, shedding, or the lack of desire to socialize. If you are seeing signs of stress, take a break. A walk outside may help, or you many need to shorten the visit. Pets as well as people have good days and bad.
Respect the dignity and privacy of all residents. Always knock before entering a room; ask residents if they like dogs (cats) and would like a pet visit. If any are openly hostile, just say "have a nice day" and leave. If residents do want visits, greet them by name, if possible.
Speak slowly and distinctly (many residents are hard of hearing). Give them adequate time to respond. Look directly at them while talking. Stand or kneel where you and your pet can be seen and/or is available for stroking/petting.
If residents are blind, touch them gently to let them know they are being addressed.
Maintain a cheerful attitude and don't take their problems home with you. Accept conditions as you find them. Never criticize, contradict, or argue.
Do not attempt to lift or move a resident. If assistance is needed, push the call button to summon an aide or orderly.
Don't give residents cigarettes, or matches without permission from nurse in charge. For their own safety, residents are allowed to smoke only under supervision. Many residents are on restricted diets, so be sure to check with nurse before giving any food to them
Do not remove restraints, as they are used on doctors' orders to protect the residents.
Don't ask "how do you feel" or "when are you going home", for many residents feel bad and can never go home again.
Many residents feel resentment toward the people who have arranged for their admission. Don't take on their problems.
To open a conversation, try to get residents to talk about pets they owned, and if that doesn't work, try pictures or funishing of their rooms.
Ask a resident if they have favorite breeds or types of animals and pass the info along to others in your group so someone may be able to accommodate them.
If you see another pet in a room you plan to visit, postpone your visit until the other owner and pet have left. Dogs should also be kept separated in the halls and lounges. Of course, if two dogs are working as a team, the separation rule does not apply.
If you or your pet feel even a little unwell, it's wise to cancel because the folks you will be visiting are already in frail health.
Don't let residents with walkers hold or stroke a pet unless they are sitting down.
Pets can injure patients. Dog bites and cat scratches are quite common. The elderly often have very VERY thin skin equivalent to a burn. Sometimes a simple rub will remove skin and result in injury. Report any incidents to someone as a nuse.
The "therapy" your pet gives IS very much appreciated. After a few visits you will realize the good you are doing.
Good Bless You--- keep up the good work.
Your donations are very much appreciated.