Something Extra Special That I Do

from Jane Singer

Do you know what a social therapy dog is? I didn’t until I read about an organization called Lend A Paw and a no-kill shelter called New Leash On Life that rescued dogs from the pound, picked the ones with great dispositions and trained them. A social therapy dog is a comfort animal, not a service dog. They don’t guide the blind, or detect seizures but they are very special kinds of helpers. I saw little Caspy’s picture on the New Leash on Life website. He’d been rescued from a pound, fostered, given obedience training and was up for adoption as a social therapy dog- a calm presence who could bring all kinds of love and attention to people who need it most like the elderly, hospital patients, the developmentally disabled, etc. It was a perfect fit! I applied to the program immediately. Here is in part, why: My amazing daughter Jess, a high-functioning learning disabled adult and I work as self-defense instructors at the Kayne-Eras Center in Culver City California. Our students have many challenges: autism, learning differences, behavior issues, and have benefited from our program called Blocking the Punches. Jess and I have had a lot of training in the martial art called JuJitsu and while we don’t try to make ninjas of our students, we know we really help them recognize danger, prevent assaults, verbal abuse, and learn basic self-defense moves. And when we brought in a stuffed dog to use as a communication tool one day, some of the non-verbal autistic students started talking to the dog!

So our journey with little Caspy— a poodle/havanese mix—began. Jess and I had to get trained to work in the program, have approved supervised hours at various sites until finally we earned our credentials. (Caspy already had his. We just had to catch up.) We visit all kinds of facilities with him and other therapy dog teams. He’s a good listener, never judges, keeps secrets and is also a great family pet. Turns out theses four-legged angels make a huge difference in the lives of the people we visit. Aren’t we lucky?


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