Bringing People Joy, One Belly Rub and Paw Shake at a Time
Above: Daisy, Louie, Jack and Chase.
“If people could take one thing away from interacting with my dogs, I hope to think it’s the feeling that they are loved; that there are people, as well as animals, out there that are there for them.”
It’s Giving & Gratitude month at Wiss. How do you give back?
As a family, we decided to have all our dogs certified to become therapy dogs. To be certified as a therapy dog, each of our pets must be trained and pass a Canine Good Citizen Test and a Therapy Dog test.
When our son was involved in 4H with the dogs we visited a senior citizen center and saw first-hand the positive impact the dogs had with the seniors. We knew then that this was something we could do as a family, that would at the same time get the dogs off the couch and give back to others.
Once we passed the therapy dog test, we began bringing the dogs into school districts, senior centers, and hospitals. We are also called in to assist when there is a crisis on a school campus to provide comfort to students and staff. Recently, we were called in to provide support to students and staff who were grieving the tragic loss of a fellow student. We were also on hand in a shelter to provide comfort and support to families who were displaced after tropical storm IDA.
“Recently, we were called in to provide support to students and staff who were grieving the tragic loss of a fellow student.”
What a wonderful idea! Could you introduce your dogs?
We have two Golden Retrievers named Daisy and Louie, and two Australian Shepherds named Jack and Chase. Our fifth dog, a puppy, named Finn, is Jack’s son. In addition to therapy dog work, all of the dogs have competed in Obedience, Agility and Confirmation. Our son James and dog Jack also qualified and competed at Westminster in 2015.
Have you and your family always been animal lovers?
Yes! I never had dogs growing up, but my wife did. Together, we’ve always had at least three dogs. Right now, five’s a lot! That said, during Covid it’s been great to have them. I know they have enjoyed the extra walks and attention too.
How are your dogs received?
Most people smile right away when they walk into the room! However, we are very aware that not everyone is receptive to dogs and try to be considerate of everyone in the room.
My wife works for a school district. She started bringing Jack into classrooms. It’s amazing the impact a dog has on them. Students who were nonverbal or standing away from him initially were by the second or third visit smiling, reading to him and hugging him. Children often bring him pictures and are excited to get the opportunity to read their favorite book to Jack. We’ve even received letters from the students asking Jack to revisit them. The children love him and often when they see my wife without Jack they will stop and ask her when he will be visiting again.
We see a similar response in Seniors, who look forward to the day when the dogs are coming into the Nursing Home. Often, they’ll reminisce about when they had their own home, and their own dog. Petting the animals stirs up tender memories and brings a smile to their faces. There have been many articles and studies on the positive impact therapy dogs have on children and adults.
“Petting the animals stirs up tender memories and brings a smile to their faces.”
Every Read Across America Day our dogs go into the schools. Once a year, all schools have guests to read to the students and the kids line up to read to the dogs.
Do the dogs read to the students?
Yes, they do.
What’s something people may not appreciate about therapy dogs?
Some people see dogs as vicious or hear dogs barking and assume it’s a sign of aggression. Some people are afraid of dogs, but it’s usually because they’ve had very little interaction with them. The other concern people may have is that an animal is a liability. But all therapy dogs must be trained and certified.
It’s been a big year. What are you most grateful for?
Yesterday, being Veteran’s Day, I must say, I’m most grateful for the freedoms we enjoy in this country, especially the freedom to express ourselves. I enjoy the freedom to give back to those who are less fortunate or who may be struggling. I’m also grateful for my wonderful friends and family.
“I enjoy the freedom to give back to those who are less fortunate or who may be struggling.”
What’s the greatest gift your dogs give to others?
If people could take one thing away from interacting with my dogs, I hope to think it’s the feeling that they are loved; that there are people, as well as animals, out there that are there for them. Therapy dogs improve people’s lives by bringing instant joy and comfort.
I imagine they bring you a lot of joy and comfort too, Scott! If someone is seeking to use your therapy dog service, how do they get in contact?
You can reach out directly to The Bright and Beautiful Therapy Dogs located in Morristown, NJ. They have teams all over the state.