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A Furry Cure-All

The dramatic difference therapy animals make.



Douglas Foulke

Dogs are not just man’s best friend, but also can be human’s best medicine. Corporal William Wynne of Ohio and his Yorkshire Terrier Smoky may have been the first therapy team to prove this fact. During World War II, Smoky, alongside Corporal Wynn, brought canine comfort to wounded soldiers on the battlefield and in hospitals. It’s been known for decades that the simple presence of a loving dog at a scene of chaos and sadness does wonders for improving morale and soothing anguish.

Sadly, there have been a few incidences close to home in which emergency therapy dog services were needed. After the senseless murder of student Maren Sanchez at Jonathan Law High School in Milford this past April, the Board of Education contacted the country’s largest animal therapy organization, Pet Partners of Bellevue, Washington, asking the organization to send local teams to aid in comforting the grief-stricken students and teachers.

By the time school re-opened, one such team, Dennis Gallagher of Monroe, and his therapy collie Dani, visited every day for a week, encouraging kids to pet and hug this docile and compassionate pup. The teams had such an impact on healing in the community that Milford Mayor Ben Blake issued a special proclamation honoring Pet Partners and its teams. 

When the Sandy Hook tragedy occurred, Gallagher was asked by the Newtown librarian to “station himself” there for set hours with his older dog, Gracie, a nine-year-old collie. Families came every day, sometimes holding the holiday parties they couldn’t have at their school in the calming presence of Gracie. “There is so much pain, sadness, and tension in these situations,” explains Dennis. “And when Gracie or Dani show up, the tone of the room changes. People can laugh, they can talk more easily.” Dennis and his dogs still regularly visit Newtown where they forged permanent bonds.

While a working therapy dog is often on call for special assignments during crises, these cherished pets usually have weekly “jobs.” Gallagher and Dani were recently invited to launch a program with the University of Bridgeport this fall. Every Tuesday afternoon, Gallagher and Dani visit the counseling center then walk through different parts of the campus, stopping wherever they are needed. “Having them come relieves so much stress for the students,” explains Jessica Mills, Director of Counseling Services at University of Bridgeport. “They may miss their dog at home, their family, or be stressed about school work. No matter what, it makes everyone feel better to spend some time with Dani.”

Dennis also visits Bridgeport Hospital on Friday nights, moving from the ER to pediatrics, then to the oncology unit. “Everyone lights up when they see her,” explains Dennis, “She has so much compassion, and she makes people feel better. Once she went straight over to a woman who was crying—her son had been injured–and she nuzzled in her lap. It is truly amazing to watch the interactions and the positive response that she elicits.”

Research supports Dennis’ observations. Petting a dog, or even talking to one, lowers the heart rate, reduces blood pressure and lessens anxiety by reducing levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the blood. A study of heart attack patients published in the American Journal of Cardiology in 1995 found dog owners were six times more likely to survive an additional year than patients who didn’t have dogs. Another program Dennis and Dani participate in is READ with Inter-Mountain Therapy Animals, where young reluctant readers read to Dani during short time blocks at the Monroe library. Studies involving children have shown that they are less shy when in the presence of a therapy dog, and will usually talk more openly.

“A therapy animal is a pet that is owned by someone who uses the animal to provide comfort, motivation, and entertainment to the general public,” explains Paula Scott of Pet Partners. There are many therapy dog organizations in America, but Pet Partners is the only one that oversees therapy teams that include other animals, namely cats, horses, rabbits, and even llamas. Gallagher is also a Pet Partners “evaluator” so he helps other teams become certified.

Why can’t you just take your well-behaved dog and walk into a hospital? “For starters, you need insurance in case anything happens,” says Dennis. “And organizations usually require some kind of certification to enter the premises with any animal.” Dennis’ day job is at Mortgage Master in Fairfield. “I started doing therapy work with my dogs as a way to alleviate my own stress, while giving back and sharing my dogs’ compassion with people who need her.” 

There are very few therapy dog teams in our area. Think your dog might have the right stuff? “Any well-behaved dog, and an owner who has good control, can be eligible if they wish to embark on the road to becoming a therapy team,” says Gallagher. “So many of us have pets that we love and we train, why not share the joy with others?” 

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November 2018

The Fine Line Art Gallery will again host its annual fall show,Festival in Color,where original paintings in oil, watercolor, acrylic, pastel, photography, fused glass, prints, one-of-a-kind...

Cost: Admission Free

Where:
Fine Line Art Gallery
319 Main Street South
Woodbury, CT  06798
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Sponsor: Fine Line Art Gallery
Telephone: 203-266-0110
Contact Name: Mally DeSomma
Website »

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The Superhero Sutras is a three-part lecture series that highlights the connections and commonalities between contemporary fiction and ancient systems of meditation – and the practical...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Valley Spirit Wellness Center
6 Green Hill Rd
Washington Depot, CT  06793
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Sponsor: Valley Spirit Wellness Center
Telephone: 267-301-5182
Contact Name: Kristin Kunhardt
Website »

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Byrde + the b is pleased to announce an exhibit of Walter Fields new  artwork opening on Friday November 2 from 5-7:00pm at Byrde + the b, 10 Titus Rd, Washington Depot, CT 06794.  The...

Cost: Free

Where:
Byrde + the b
10 Titus Road
Washington Depot, CT  06794
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Sponsor: Byrde + the b
Telephone: 212 255-6247
Contact Name: Steven Miller
Website »

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St. Michael’s Parish will present a commemorative service for the 100th Anniversary of the World War I Armistice on Veterans Day Sunday, November 11, beginning at 5pm. Readings and music by...

Cost: Freewill Offering

Where:
St. Michael's Parish
25 South Street
Just off the Litchfield Green
Litchfield, CT  06759
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Sponsor: St. Michael's-Litchfield
Telephone: 860-567-9465
Contact Name: Jo Ann Jaacks
Website »

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Art That Speaks: Exhibition and Opening Exhibition October 1-November 15, 2018 Artist Reception: October 8, 4pm to 6pm.Fuel Bistro​, 293 Main Street, Great Barrington, MA 01230 Gabrielle...

Cost: free

Where:
Fuel Bistro
293 Main Street
Great Barrington, MA  01230
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Sponsor: Walk Unafraid
Telephone: 413 717 0031
Contact Name: Gabrielle Senza
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Byrde + the b is pleased to announce an exhibit of Walter Fields new  artwork opening on Friday November 2 from 5-7:00pm at Byrde + the b, 10 Titus Rd, Washington Depot, CT 06794.  The...

Cost: Free

Where:
Byrde + the b
10 Titus Road
Washington Depot, CT  06794
View map »


Sponsor: Byrde + the b
Telephone: 212 255-6247
Contact Name: Steven Miller
Website »

More information

Art That Speaks: Exhibition and Opening Exhibition October 1-November 15, 2018 Artist Reception: October 8, 4pm to 6pm.Fuel Bistro​, 293 Main Street, Great Barrington, MA 01230 Gabrielle...

Cost: free

Where:
Fuel Bistro
293 Main Street
Great Barrington, MA  01230
View map »


Sponsor: Walk Unafraid
Telephone: 413 717 0031
Contact Name: Gabrielle Senza
Website »

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Join Art Rodia, an instructor with over 30 years of yoga teaching experience, as he guides this gentle yoga class. Created for people over fifty and beginners who need a gentle and accessible...

Cost: 10 per class

Where:
New Morning Market
129 Main St North
Woodbury, CT  06798
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Sponsor: New Morning Market
Telephone: 203-263-4868
Website »

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Byrde + the b is pleased to announce an exhibit of Walter Fields new  artwork opening on Friday November 2 from 5-7:00pm at Byrde + the b, 10 Titus Rd, Washington Depot, CT 06794.  The...

Cost: Free

Where:
Byrde + the b
10 Titus Road
Washington Depot, CT  06794
View map »


Sponsor: Byrde + the b
Telephone: 212 255-6247
Contact Name: Steven Miller
Website »

More information

Harper Keehn is a professional knife sharpener based in New Haven. Bring your knives, serrated knives, pizza cutters, scissors, food processor blades, and other edge tools to be sharpened on site....

Cost: 1.25/inch

Where:
New Morning Market
129 Main St North
Woodbury, CT  06798
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Sponsor: New Morning Market
Website »

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Art That Speaks: Exhibition and Opening Exhibition October 1-November 15, 2018 Artist Reception: October 8, 4pm to 6pm.Fuel Bistro​, 293 Main Street, Great Barrington, MA 01230 Gabrielle...

Cost: free

Where:
Fuel Bistro
293 Main Street
Great Barrington, MA  01230
View map »


Sponsor: Walk Unafraid
Telephone: 413 717 0031
Contact Name: Gabrielle Senza
Website »

More information

Join New Morning Market’s new knitting club! We’re crafting wearable items for Safe Haven of Greater Waterbury and welcome all levels to join! Instructors will be on-hand for beginners. Yarn,...

Cost: Free - registration requested

Where:
New Morning Market
129 Main St North
Woodbury, CT  06798
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Sponsor: New Morning Market
Telephone: 203-263-4868
Website »

More information

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Art That Speaks: Exhibition and Opening Exhibition October 1-November 15, 2018 Artist Reception: October 8, 4pm to 6pm.Fuel Bistro​, 293 Main Street, Great Barrington, MA 01230 Gabrielle...

Cost: free

Where:
Fuel Bistro
293 Main Street
Great Barrington, MA  01230
View map »


Sponsor: Walk Unafraid
Telephone: 413 717 0031
Contact Name: Gabrielle Senza
Website »

More information

Byrde + the b is pleased to announce an exhibit of Walter Fields new  artwork opening on Friday November 2 from 5-7:00pm at Byrde + the b, 10 Titus Rd, Washington Depot, CT 06794.  The...

Cost: Free

Where:
Byrde + the b
10 Titus Road
Washington Depot, CT  06794
View map »


Sponsor: Byrde + the b
Telephone: 212 255-6247
Contact Name: Steven Miller
Website »

More information

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(Litchfield, Conn.) Brandywine Living at Litchfield will be hosting their 6th Annual Ladies Night Out Charity Shopping Event on Thursday, November 15th  from 5-7 PM. This spectacular community...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Brandywine Living at Litchfield
19 Constitution Way
Litchfield, CT  06759
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Sponsor: Brandywine Living at Litchfield
Telephone: 860-567-9500
Contact Name: Amber Chapman
Website »

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Brandywine Living at Litchfield's 6th Annual Ladies Night Out Charity Shopping Event.  Thursday, November 15, 2018, from 5 pm to 7 pm. Join us for food, signature drinks, fun and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Brandywine LIving at Litchfield
19 Constitution Way
Litchfield, CT  06759
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Sponsor: Brandywine Living at Litchfield
Telephone: 860-567-9500
Contact Name: Nanette Bergin

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Byrde + the b is pleased to announce an exhibit of Walter Fields new  artwork opening on Friday November 2 from 5-7:00pm at Byrde + the b, 10 Titus Rd, Washington Depot, CT 06794.  The...

Cost: Free

Where:
Byrde + the b
10 Titus Road
Washington Depot, CT  06794
View map »


Sponsor: Byrde + the b
Telephone: 212 255-6247
Contact Name: Steven Miller
Website »

More information

Art That Speaks: Exhibition and Opening Exhibition October 1-November 15, 2018 Artist Reception: October 8, 4pm to 6pm.Fuel Bistro​, 293 Main Street, Great Barrington, MA 01230 Gabrielle...

Cost: free

Where:
Fuel Bistro
293 Main Street
Great Barrington, MA  01230
View map »


Sponsor: Walk Unafraid
Telephone: 413 717 0031
Contact Name: Gabrielle Senza
Website »

More information

KMR Arts presents Mark Seliger: Platinum Prints. The exhibition opens on Saturday, October 6, 2018 from 3-6 pm with a reception and book signing of the monograph, MARK SELIGER PHOTOGRAPHS, with the...

Cost: no charge

Where:
KMR Arts
2 Titus Road
Washington Depot, CT  06794
View map »


Sponsor: KMR Arts
Telephone: (860)868-7533
Contact Name: Kathy McCarver Root
Website »

More information

Join New Morning Market’s new knitting club! We’re crafting wearable items for Safe Haven of Greater Waterbury and welcome all levels to join! Instructors will be on-hand for beginners. Yarn,...

Cost: Free - registration requested

Where:
New Morning Market
129 Main St North
Woodbury, CT  06798
View map »


Sponsor: New Morning Market
Telephone: 203-263-4868
Website »

More information

EVERY THURSDAY | 7:30 PM - 10:00 pm Music | Spoken Word | Comedy | More Hosted by Don Lowe Hunt Hill Farm is excited to announce OpenMic night every Thursday night.  Please stop by to...

Cost: donation

Where:
Hunt Hill Farm
44 Upland Road
New Milford, CT  06776
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Sponsor: Hunt Hill Farm
Telephone: 860.355.0300
Contact Name: John C. Maxwell III
Website »

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Meet us under the Dome and catch all the excitement! Come out for the 16th Annual Festival of Trees to benefit Ann’s Place at the Danbury Sports Dome for a weekend filled with live events...

Cost: Ages 3 to 64, $10; Seniors, $5; kids under 3, free.

Where:
Danbury Sports Dome
25 Shelter Rock Ln
Danbury, CT  06810
View map »


Sponsor: Ann's Place
Telephone: 203-790-6568
Contact Name: Michelle Frosch
Website »

More information

Byrde + the b is pleased to announce an exhibit of Walter Fields new  artwork opening on Friday November 2 from 5-7:00pm at Byrde + the b, 10 Titus Rd, Washington Depot, CT 06794.  The...

Cost: Free

Where:
Byrde + the b
10 Titus Road
Washington Depot, CT  06794
View map »


Sponsor: Byrde + the b
Telephone: 212 255-6247
Contact Name: Steven Miller
Website »

More information

KMR Arts presents Mark Seliger: Platinum Prints. The exhibition opens on Saturday, October 6, 2018 from 3-6 pm with a reception and book signing of the monograph, MARK SELIGER PHOTOGRAPHS, with the...

Cost: no charge

Where:
KMR Arts
2 Titus Road
Washington Depot, CT  06794
View map »


Sponsor: KMR Arts
Telephone: (860)868-7533
Contact Name: Kathy McCarver Root
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Meet us under the Dome and catch all the excitement! Come out for the 16th Annual Festival of Trees to benefit Ann’s Place at the Danbury Sports Dome for a weekend filled with live events...

Cost: Ages 3 to 64, $10; Seniors, $5; kids under 3, free.

Where:
Danbury Sports Dome
25 Shelter Rock Ln
Danbury, CT  06810
View map »


Sponsor: Ann's Place
Telephone: 203-790-6568
Contact Name: Michelle Frosch
Website »

More information

St Joseph High School's Maroon & Gold Gala is a scholarship event that casts a spotlight on the school’s strong commitment to community service and leadership. It is a fabulous...

Cost: $150

Where:
The Waterview
215 Roosevelt Drive
Monroe, CT  06468
View map »


Sponsor: St Joseph High School
Telephone: (203) 378-9378
Contact Name: St Joseph High School
Website »

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The League of Women Voters of Litchfield County will co-sponsor a talk with the Litchfield Historical Society on Saturday, November 17 at 4 p.m. entitled “Nation of Immigrants" featuring Kevin...

Cost: Free

Where:
Litchfield History Museum
7 South Street
Lithfield, CT  06759
View map »


Sponsor: Litchfield Historical Society
Telephone: 860-567-4501
Contact Name: Litchfield Historical Society
Website »

More information

Byrde + the b is pleased to announce an exhibit of Walter Fields new  artwork opening on Friday November 2 from 5-7:00pm at Byrde + the b, 10 Titus Rd, Washington Depot, CT 06794.  The...

Cost: Free

Where:
Byrde + the b
10 Titus Road
Washington Depot, CT  06794
View map »


Sponsor: Byrde + the b
Telephone: 212 255-6247
Contact Name: Steven Miller
Website »

More information

KMR Arts presents Mark Seliger: Platinum Prints. The exhibition opens on Saturday, October 6, 2018 from 3-6 pm with a reception and book signing of the monograph, MARK SELIGER PHOTOGRAPHS, with the...

Cost: no charge

Where:
KMR Arts
2 Titus Road
Washington Depot, CT  06794
View map »


Sponsor: KMR Arts
Telephone: (860)868-7533
Contact Name: Kathy McCarver Root
Website »

More information

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