Great Danes as Therapy Dogs
The response of our certified Therapy Dogs to the tragic events of 9-11 was awe inspiring. These four-footed therapists came from all over our Nation, with their wagging tails, wet kisses and warm bodies. Unencumbered by pity or sorrow, they provided consolation and comfort to the distraught, the grief stricken, and an emotive release to the frantic and brave men and women, digging with their hands and hoping with their hearts, at Ground Zero. Margaret Pepe, Disaster Mental Health Officer for the American Red Cross Relief Operation, was quoted as saying "I oversee 175 counselors, psychologists and social workers, and I wish they all had four feet. The dogs are incredibly effective. I'm jealous of their ability to engage and relax people in a matter of minutes." These dogs were all certified by Pet Therapy Organizations, such as the Delta Society, based outside Seattle; Therapy Dogs International (TDI) of Flanders, N.J., the Good Dog Foundation, Brooklyn, NY., plus many others whose members and dogs responded immediately.
The connection between spiritual healing and animals goes back a long way. The Mayans believed that each person is assigned a "soul animal" as a guide through life. Florence Nightingale recommended small pets for the chronically ill. However, the medical profession did not encourage using animals, citing the sanitation risks involved, oblivious to their therapeutic value. Fortunately for humanity, the Medical Profession did not prevail.
Therapy Dogs International, formed in l976, convinced that animals, and dogs in particular, had tremendous therapeutic value, initiated a series of temperament tests dogs had to pass, demonstrating confidence and control, a sensitivity and attention to people, a gentleness and calmness of spirit, indicating they could accept the unexpected, loud noises, screaming, wheelchairs, walkers, pinched skin, eye pokes, tail grabbing, etc., all possible occurrences at Health/Hospice facilities Dogs that passed the tests became certified Therapy Dogs, and were covered by an Insurance Policy. Once certified, and insured, Hospices, Nursing Homes, etc. were more receptive to having dogs on their premises.
It was a slow beginning, but now, recognizing their truly remarkable therapeutic abilities, the demand for certified Dogs visitations, individually, or in groups /teams, has outgrown their availability in some areas. Some Health Centers, Nursing homes/Hospices now have their own certified resident pet/s.
Danes make excellent Therapy Dogs. Although they may not be certified until they are one year old, my Danes are "introduced" as puppies to therapy work at a local Facility. The residents look forward to visits, watch them grow up, and line up for photos at Christmas, Easter, Halloween, that become favorite wall hangings. Their size is an enhancement, they give the folks a sense of long lost empowerment when they "take leash in hand", plus they can easily 'kiss' faces that want to be kissed, hugged, etc. I urge you to allow your Danes, and yourselves, the pleasure of giving to others less fortunate. A good place to start is with the AKC Canine Good Citizenship Certification, then go for your Therapy Dog Certification. In l987 I became a TDI Evaluator, and it "makes my day" when I can certify another dog to perform Therapy duty, knowing it will bring happiness to needy souls. So believe me when I say you will be doing your Danes and yourselves, a big favor by getting them certified.
Mrs. Paddy Magnuson,