Muncie Riverside UMC Partners with Therapy Dogs Interntional
Riverside United Methodist Church has gone to the dogs—literally, at least several times a year anyway. The church in Muncie, Indiana started a ministry five years ago to help get dogs certified for therapy dog work through Therapy Dogs International. The Riverside congregation has graciously opened their church facilities allowing dogs to be tested and certified for therapy dog work there several times a year. A free class to prepare and test dogs for therapy dog work is also offered once annually. A member of the congregation, Deb Dolak, is an approved evaluator for Therapy Dogs International. She provides the evaluations and free training class along with the assistance of other local area dog trainers and members of the congregation. Ms. Dolak is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer through the Council for Certification of Professional Dog Trainers and is also a professional member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers. She also serves as volunteer coordinator for pet therapy at IU Health/Ball Memorial Hospital in Muncie.
Dogs certified through Therapy Dogs International provide comfort and joy to residents in nursing homes, patients in hospitals and psychiatric facilities, as well as those in hospice care. Certification also allows participation in programs to assist children in improving their reading skills by having children read to dogs. Certified dogs can also participate in educational programs promoting child safety around dogs. A therapy dog is not the same as a service dog and does not carry the same privileges as a service dog when it comes to accompanying its owner to restaurants and other public places or travel on airlines.
In order for a dog to be certified with Therapy Dogs International, the dog must be at least one year old, be of sound temperament, and enjoy being around people and being petted. Dogs must also have impeccable manners and must pass all elements of the evaluation in order to be certified.
The testing elements for certification include mastery of basic good manners including sit, down, stay, walking politely on leash, coming when called, greeting people and other dogs politely, and refusing food on command that is on the floor and when offered by a person using a walker. Dogs are also tested around a wheelchair, walker, and crutches. Dogs must also navigate politely through a crowd as well as being held on leash by a stranger for 2-3 minutes while the owner is taken out of sight. The test is conducted on leash. Food rewards are not allowed during the test. Dogs must pass all parts of the test in order to be certified.
The next testing session is being offered on April 27, 2013 from 9-11 a.m. at Riverside. Reservations are required to be included in the testing session which is limited to 8 dogs. For more information, please contact Deb Dolak, CPDT-KA at firstname.lastname@example.org or 765-288-2514. For more information about Therapy Dogs International, please visit the website at http://www.tdi-dog.org/.