Today, May 18, 2015, is the first annual National Therapy Animal Day. Therapy animals are used more and more often as we discover how much value they can add to healing and learning for people of all ages. Check here to read current news stories that exhibit the miracles that these animals can bring to us.
I am a huge animal lover and am/have been owned by several pets. Around my son's 3rd birthday we were concerned about his speech development. He wasn't much of a talker, but he was expert at getting his needs met using other methods. He reminded me of the rabbit in the Frosty the Snowman special. He didn't see a need to talk! Around that same time we got a new golden retriever puppy, Katy. Katy saw Sam as another puppy playmate and as she was growing she could get a little rambunctious with Sam and sometimes knock him over.
Of course we worked with training Katy, she's now a proud graduate of the Canine Good Citizenship program, but part of it was also teaching Sam to use the commands of sit, off, and down in a strong voice. Sam very quickly learned that talking and using his voice served a great purpose and he started using it more and more, not just with Katy, but with all of us. There were many a morning I would wake up to find Sam laying next to Katy's crate chattering away telling her all about his adventures, hopes and dreams. It was such a touching sight to see.
Katy is an extremely tolerant dog and she loves anyone and everyone! She would make an ideal therapy dog and in fact we went through some training to lead to it. Unfortunately the program we were working with ended their classes and Katy ended up having a series of knee surgeries to correct joint issues in both of her knees so her career as a therapy dog has never been realized. She spends hours at home providing us constant unconditional love and "therapy" though. One of the things she loves more than anything is to lay with us and be read to! She's sat through the entire Harry Potter series a couple years ago with my older kids and is now working her way through it again with Sam.
I've seen the value that the love and attention of a pet can bring to the mental well-being of the people around them. They really can be miracle workers! I would love to see the use of reading dogs in schools increase!
As part of my Wonder Novel Study, I created a reading informational activity about therapy dogs. I offer it outside of the novel study as a free download in my store. It is a wonderful activity to explore the use and benefits of therapy animals. Click on the picture to go to the FREE download.
In honor of Katy, and all the wonderful therapy animals out there, Happy National Therapy Animal Day!