Does ROAR have a dog-therapy program?
Yes. About two and a half years ago, ROAR board member and professional dog trainer Mary Jo Duffy took ROAR’s existing therapy dog program, revamped it, and revitalized it. Today, seven furry friends wag their tails each week as they visit people in need of a little unconditional love and companionship at area schools, elder-care facilities, libraries, and hospice-care centers.
So, how does one go about being part of ROAR’s program? Duffy and her team of ROAR volunteers screen dog and handler to assess potential candidates. “It’s a one-shot deal. If they pass the screening, they go to step two, the classes,” says Duffy. “My goal is to create a strong bond between the owner and the dog. They need to be a team,” explains Duffy.
During class, Duffy role-plays with the dogs and handlers to ensure the dogs can remain calm and focused in a variety of unpredictable situations. This includes exposing the dogs to wheelchairs, canes, and crutches in order to build solid attention skills. Upon successful completion of the five classes, dog and handler are certified and can receive liability-insurance coverage.
Therapy dog team Lori Mazzola and Fonzie frequently visit an elder-care facility. “I brought Fonzie to visit an Alzheimer’s patient whose daughter told me her mom doesn’t recognize her, but she did remember Fonzie,” says Mazzola.
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