Photo credit: ATD Former Board Member Peggy Grookett
Dogs can be wonderful for our well-being. When we take them for walks, we step outside and exercise, when we are feeling low, they are nearby, ready to snuggle. Though some people may not be able to experience the joys of being a dog owner, that doesn’t mean they can’t soak up the amazing benefits of dogs.
At Alliance of Therapy Dogs, we offer free therapy dog home visits to individuals who are elderly, lonely, bedridden, and handicapped. We want to help brighten someone’s day with our therapy pups. If you’re considering arranging a free therapy dog home visit, here’s what you need to know.
How Can I Get A Therapy Dog To Visit My Home?
A family member, neighbor, friend, or hospice can request a therapy dog home visit. We also encourage someone comfortable with animals to be present during the pet therapy visit such as a relative, caregiver, or the person who requested the visit. Although if the therapy dog handlers are familiar with the person, a second individual may not be necessary.
You can contact the ATD office to arrange a therapy dog home visit. They will get in touch with an ATD member that is close to your location. You can also request a certain dog breed if the person has a fondness for a breed like a golden retriever, but there is no guarantee there will be a team in the area that has one.
How Does A Therapy Dog Home Visit Work?
- The handler will show their Alliance of Therapy Dogs registration card and dog health certificate.
- If there are other pets in the home, we do ask that they be put up during the time of the visit.
- After that, you have permission to pet the dog.
- The therapy dog visits can range from half an hour to an hour and a half, depending on the dog and patient.
- A therapy dog can be positioned on a chair or couch with permission or if the dog is under 50lbs and given permission can be on the bed of the individual.
What Are The Benefits Of A Therapy Dog Home Visit?
Therapy dog home visits can be a great way to share smiles and joy. Not to mention, they are free!
Peggy Grookett, a former and retired Alliance of Therapy Dogs board member, saw the benefits of therapy dog home visits first-hand. She recalls a period when she and her beagle Cody, visited a mentally challenged and partially blind young man in his group home.
“When I went to the group home, he was sitting on the couch swaying and crying softly. I sat next to him and put Cody on the couch and took his hand and placed it on Cody’s back. He immediately stopped crying, turned in Cody’s direction, and started laughing and petting him! I visited once a week for about one hour, and also visited the other patients in the home. The aides always told me that all their patients were easier to handle on the days Cody visited,” said Grookett.
Another home visit Grookett made with her beagle Hunter, was to see an eighty-two-year-old woman who lived alone.
“She would leave the back door open for me and always told me that if she was napping, to wake her up as she did not want to miss a dog visit,” said Grookett. “Our visit would be about one hour and after that the dog would do some tricks where she could throw a cookie to my pup. We sat and talked about her earlier life in England, her marriage, and raising her family. I enjoyed hearing about her history and she liked to hear about my family and dogs. She loved dogs and really wanted one of her own, as she had them throughout her life, but realized she was too old to care for one.”
Grookett also brought Hunter to visit a six-year-old girl who suffered from a malignant brain tumor.
“Hunter would sit in a chair next to her bed so she could pet his head and hold his long ears. Her little brother would come into the room and ask if he could hug Hunter as a thank you for making his sister happy,” said Grookett. “I knew that the visit brought some comfort to the little girl and her family.”
Grookett also shares that volunteering with her dogs over the years has been one of the best jobs she’s had.
“I love volunteering because I feel that I am giving back to others,” said Grookett. “I have seen so many great things over the past 20 years of pet therapy that I could go on about the different situations where my dogs have affected people for the good. I am just the handler on the other end of the leash. My dogs work all the magic.”