Showing posts with label Pet Partners. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pet Partners. Show all posts

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Moose! The Reading Dog - Book Review

Moose! The Reading Dog
As Finn and I embarked on our journey to become a registered therapy dog team, we sought to learn as much as possible from local dog celebrity, Moose, and his Pet Partners handler, Dr. Laura Bruneau.  One of the first things I did was to read their recently published book entitled Moose! The Reading Dog.  The review that follows is written primarily through my teacher lens, though it is also shaped by my passions for reading and animal rescue.

I first came across Moose's book at the Alamosa Public Library where I was looking for reading material to use in future animal-assisted interactions with elementary-aged children.  As a teacher who loves to read with primary students, I was delighted to discover that Moose's story fit right in the sweet spot of that target group.

Photo of Moose Used With Permission
One of the things that sets this book apart is that Moose tells his own story.  That first-dog perspective is appealing to young readers.  Over the course of six chapterettes, Moose reveals what makes him the extraordinary dog that he is.  We learn how his life started out on a ranch (Chapter 1 - About Me), how he ended up in an animal shelter (Chapter 2 - The Shelter), what it was like to be adopted by a new family (Chapter 3 - My New Home), how he began to change his behavior (Chapter 4 - Learning the Rules), the process of finding a job for his unique gifts (Chapter 5 - Getting Ready to Work), and, finally, helping children enjoy reading (Chapter 6 - I am a Reading Dog).

It is so easy to fall in love with Moose.  My favorite illustrations in the book, as designed by Mic Ru, were those of this gentle giant (a 115-pound Saint Bernard mix).  There was a sweet, friendly, and very huggable quality that flowed through the depictions of Moose.  You could feel his great goodness.

As one who has always been very selective about the books I place in the hands of impressionable young children, Moose! The Reading Dog has earned my seal of approval for:
  • being a book with the kind of positive messages that empower young people;
  • presenting the kind of transformations that change lives for the good;
  • offering up encouragement to children, and all of us really, about being true to whatever it is that frees us up to be our best, and to make it possible for others to become the best version of themselves.
I plan to purchase multiple copies of this book to share with other teachers and to gift to the children in my life.  Finn and I give this book a rating of five paws up for inspiring us to move forward with our dream.  We believe Moose will also inspire you to be true to what makes you authentically you.  And the world needs that—you being beautifully you.

Reviewer's Note:  This review is the second in a series focused on therapy dog teams.  You can read my first installment by clicking the following link (Becoming a Pet Partners Therapy Dog Team).








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Thursday, January 31, 2019

Pet Partners Therapy Dog Team Review

Finn Looks Deeply Into Each Heart He Encounters
When you have a dog with special gifts, like I do (and many of you do), it would be selfish not to let him fully develop and use those wondrous strengths to bring cheer into the lives of those aching for connection and comfort.  Having adopted a joy dog, it just seems wrong to keep all of that great goodness to myself.  In the case of Finn, a dog that was previously kept locked away from the outside world for all of his life (until rescued), the best possible antidote to having been shut away and hoarded is to bring all of his beauty into the light of day. To share Finn, is to share love in its purest form.

In our determination to lift the spirits of others, Finn and I are on a new year's mission.  Though we have engaged in animal welfare and educational outreach work on a daily basis over the past year and a half (since Finn became a part of my forever family), we want to take this work to the next level by going through a rigorous screening process to become a registered therapy dog team.  Anything worth doing, is worth doing to the highest level of professionalism and integrity.  To that end, we have chosen to pursue approval through Pet Partners.

The Pet Partners Organization and Website

There are a number of organizations through which volunteers can seek an official status for their therapy team service.  We chose Pet Partners for several reasons:
  • Theirs is a very reputable organization with a well-established history;
  • They put animals first;
  • Their process provides unlimited opportunities for demonstrating team growth;
  • They provide quality resources that enhance both animal and handler skills;
  • Their community is one that connects teams of beautiful individuals; 
  • They provide insurance coverage for registered teams; and
  • Membership can bring a greater credibility to volunteer therapy teams.
Quality of Life is the Soul of the Mission
Once the decision was made to align ourselves with Pet Partners, Finn and I jumped right into our training.  First, I enrolled in the required handler's course.  Taking the course online was a good fit for my learning style and was also the best option given the distance I would have had to drive to attend an in-person class.  I found the course to be very informative and helpful in preparing me to set Finn and myself up for therapy dog team success.  Most importantly of all, it was a reminder that we are in the business of generating quality of life experiences... that we are to exude a reverence for life in all that we do.

Having passed my course, our next step is to visit Finn's veterinarian to get him signed off as healthy and fit for therapy dog consideration.  Because he has a disability, Finn's vet will need to indicate appropriate accommodations (like the use of Finn's K9 cart and/or dog stroller during therapy visits and the assessment process). Once Finn has passed this medical exam, we will be eligible to sign up for our team evaluation session.

Finn and I must prove ourselves both in terms of aptitude and skills.  Our evaluation process seeks first to confirm that both of us have the heart for this service.  I know, without a doubt, that therapy team outreach is a calling for me.  And, having watched Finn display his "people whispering" essence over the many months since his adoption, I feel sure that he is also well-suited for this mission.  Finn leans into this work, rather than merely tolerating it.  That is the key qualifier when it comes to passing our aptitude testing.

Finn is a Willing Student, Teacher, and Therapist
When it comes to skills, Finn and I must demonstrate that our encounters with strangers will be predictably safe.  Finn must be responsive to my guidance at all times. In addition, Finn must show a tender restraint in his dealings with a wide range of individuals.  Before even considering therapy service, I spent over a year socializing Finn to ensure that he developed the confidence necessary to meet with new people in a wide variety of settings.

Finn came to me with no prior training.  He knew no commands when we began our pursuit of this quest.  We currently set aside time every single day to push the boundaries of our learning.  Finn must show a mastery of a number of commands: come, sit, down, stay, and leave it, for starters.  He will be tested in a number of role playing situations common to what he is likely to encounter during visits to hospitals, nursing homes, and other facilities.  Right now, as a part of his preparation, I am focused on immersing Finn into the most common types of experiences he is likely to have when he officially starts his therapy dog work.

You may be wondering what Finn gets out of all of this.  As a mix of two of the most intelligent breeds of dogs, I have found that Finn needs a great deal of stimulation.  He is a combination of working dog breeds.  In my rehabilitation work with rescue dogs, I have seen the importance of providing smart, energetic animals with a job and a purpose.  As a Border collie mix, Finn would normally be involved in herding, or agility, or some form of highly evolved activity engaging both body and mind.  He seems to really enjoy stretching his mental muscles during our training sessions.  Finn's emotional tank also appears to be filled up by all of the attention and affection that comes his way as a result of our interactions with others.

Finn is a whole new dog compared to what he was on the day of his emancipation from the life of a shut-in.  In many ways, I feel his people-whispering nature is what it is due to his having overcome such a barren existence during his early years.  Finn has a way of cracking people's hearts wide open and making them feel things deeply—things that are healthy, and lovely, and healing.  How do I know this?  Well, Dr. Finn began by practicing on me.  A dose of Finn every day has been the best prescription for living a life filled with what matters most.  My desire is to give as many people as possible a taste of this good medicine.

Author's Note: If you enjoy reading about the healing power of animals, you may be interested in my book review about Bella and Jean.  Joy Unleashed tells the story of how they have been transformed while touching lives in beautiful ways.  Another book, Moose! The Reading Dog, will appeal to the children in your life.






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Thursday, January 17, 2019

Joy Unleashed Book Review

Joy Unleashed Book Review
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I have always believed that dogs find us when we need them most.  In the case of Jean Baur, that dog was Bella, a young puppy rescued off of Dead Dog Beach in Puerto Rico.  As for me, I was found by Finn, who like Bella, through extraordinary circumstances, has become a bridge to what comes next in life.

The story of Bella and Jean goes far beyond your typical heart-warming adoption account.  Joy Unleashed is about finding true belonging and purpose, about reaching people who were previously unreachable, about providing primal comfort, and about bringing joy just by entering a room.  It is about the kind of human-animal bond that breaks through loneliness, fear, and the types of losses that leave us feeling shaken to our core.

Perhaps the best part of Bella's story is the element of unlikeliness.  Just as Bella was an unlikely candidate for what she became (a highly successful, much-loved therapy dog), nearly every one of us will also face times during our journey of becoming when others deem us unlikely—perhaps unlikely to become something special, or unlikely to make a difference.  The things that made Bella an unlikely therapy dog, her rough beginnings, her issues with other dogs and certain kinds of touch, as well as a general fearfulness, aren't really all that different from the types of things that keep many individuals from experiencing acceptance or success.

Both Bella and Jean needed something that only the other could provide.  As Jean wrestled with the loss of her job, with being uprooted from her home, and with starting over at the age of 65, she found that she and Bella complemented one another, and that they each enabled what would have been impossible to accomplish alone.

This is a book for anyone who has ever found herself unmoored and in need of a new direction, a new destination, a new love, or a new place of belonging.  This is a story that just may inspire you to be found by the animal who is waiting to become, in concert with you, joy unleashed.

I was drawn to this book because my rescue dog, Finn, and I are in the process of becoming a registered therapy dog team with Pet Partners (the organization through which Jean Baur and Bella have served).  It has been affirming of our new mission to celebrate all that Bella and Jean have accomplished even as we are joining together to bring comfort and cheer to those in need of a little extra tender loving care.

One of my favorite parts of this read was when the author realized that the heart of therapy teamwork is really about showing up and being present in ways that dogs, by nature, know how to do best.  It was at that moment that Jean Baur reflected on how she needed to become more doglike.  Isn't that the truth, that in learning how to offer up what dogs so innately, and beautifully, communicate—that we are not alone and that we are wonderful just the way we are—we become more human.




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