Minnesota therapy animal club visits hospitals, schools
ST. CLOUD, Minn. (AP) — It’s more than just pets and hugs — it’s decreased anxiety, lower blood pressure, less pain and improved well-being.
This isn’t coming from a new prescription drug or expensive medical treatment; these are all benefits someone gets from spending just a little time with man’s best friend.
“We try to promote the idea of what therapy dogs can do for people,” said Carol Papermaster, president of the Central Minnesota Therapy Animal Association. “It’s really the human and animal bond that we work on.”
The association consists of nearly two dozen people and their certified therapy pets. Their mission is to provide positive animal interactions to better people’s health and improve lives. The group visits people of all ages in different settings, ranging from hospitals and nursing homes to colleges and schools.
“I got started in it because I loved my dogs and I wanted to share them,” said Papermaster, who volunteers with her sheltie named Dance. “I do it because it is the most rewarding thing I have done in my life.”
The group was founded by J.P. Martin, who started taking his dog, Kat, to visit patients at St. Cloud Hospital more than 20 years ago. Martin has taught numerous classes to pets and their handlers over the years, and now he helps train dogs for therapy work. Martin said all of the dogs in the CMTAA are certified therapy animals.
But holding the title of Certified Therapy Animal is not just limited to dogs. CMTAA member Joyce Salzer has a rabbit as well as two miniature horses, Diahmond and Ahzlan, she uses in schools.
The “ah” in her horses’ names pay homage to “the ah-ha moment they give,” she told the St. Cloud Times .
“It’s a whole different feeling with horses, it’s a whole different power,” Salzer said. “If they can control a horse, they can usually learn that they can control themselves and who they are.”
The group tries to bring therapy animals to where ever there is a request for them. That could include visiting residents in a local nursing home or helping relax students during finals week at an area college.
“We know that when our dogs are at the hospital or the nursing home or anywhere, they’re healing,” said Georgia Thienes, who serves as secretary with the CMTAA.
Thienes and her husband, Mike, have two therapy dogs, a border collie named Takoda and a miniature American shepherd named Meeka. For them, their biggest reward is “to see the smiles on people’s faces,” Thienes said.
“It’s really a constant reward for the patient, the handler and the dog,” Papermaster said. Everyone wins, between a patient feeling better, the handler getting rewarded for their time, and even the dog who just gets some good pets in from a new friend.”
Information from: St. Cloud Times, http://www.sctimes.com