In Part 1 of Therapy Dogs Unconditional Love, I briefly introduced you to Canine Therapy Corps. The Corps started in 1991 and is based in Chicago. The people that make up this wonderful program are all volunteers from Chicago-land who go to various schools and hospitals to work with individuals that face various mental and physical hardships.
The people are as interesting as the therapy dogs. Each has their own reason to help others. In this article, I would like to introduce you to Ann and her Therapy Dog, Rocko.
Q: Why did you get involved?
Ann: I had been in a job I didn’t love for over ten years when I finally got my first dog in Chicago. I started going to training classes, pet stores, etc. and learned what a big industry pets are in Chicago. I knew I would be much happier with my career if I got to be around dogs all day, so I started taking dog training and behavior classes at FetchFind, a local school for aspiring dog trainers. After taking several of their courses, I found this position at Canine Therapy Corps and read about how they use dogs to rehabilitate people. My own dog had motivated me to change my career path, so I instantly understood how powerful dogs can be in helping people change their behavior. I was lucky enough to get the job, and less than a year later I certified my own dog, Rocko, as a Therapy Dog.
Q: What is the enjoyment you get out of having a Therapy Dog?
Ann: I get so much employment out of it. Whenever I had volunteered in the past, I had to leave my dog at home, and I always felt guilty that I wasn’t spending more time with him. By certifying him as a Therapy Dog, I am now able to volunteer with him instead of leaving him at home, and I can see how much enrichment it adds to his life. He loves meeting new people, and this gives him an opportunity to do just that. Volunteering together deepens our bond dramatically, and I get to share the joy Rocko brings me with others and see the effect it has on them.
Q: Can you share a special story about serving a particular child?
Ann: There are so many to choose from. I would say my favorite moments are when a student who has been previously hesitant about the dogs comes out of their shell and decides to participate. You see the apprehension on their face turn into unbridled joy as they interact with the dogs. There’s nothing better than seeing that change happen.
Q: What is your goal for the program?
Ann: Our goal at our Easter Seals Academy program is to help the students reach their Individualized Education Program (IEP) goals. This may include making independent decisions, developing their verbal/communication skills, or helping them stay focused on a task.
Q: How do you fund the program?
Ann: All of our programs are funded by donations from those who believe in our work. We do not receive insurance reimbursements or charge the facilities we work with. We rely on the generosity of individuals, foundations, and corporations who support us. We also host an annual fundraiser in February to raise funds for the programs.
Q: Tell us about your dog.
Ann: Rocko came into our home at about the time I started working with Canine Therapy Corps, in August 2014. I already had one dog at home, Ash, a Keeshond, and my husband and I had decided to start fostering dogs. Rocko, a German Shepherd mix was our first foster dog, and he was so wonderful we never gave him back! He played very well with Ash, and we knew right away he’d be a good Therapy Dog candidate. He loves meeting new people, is incredibly gentle, and enjoys snuggling.
For more information on Canine Therapy Corps, please contact Ann Davidson at the information below.
Operations Office Manager
CANINE THERAPY CORPS
1700 West Irving Park Road, Suite 311
Chicago, Illinois 60613
Next: Therapy Dogs Unconditional Love Part 3: Meet Daniel from Bark Avenue Playcare