These 7 Pups are Putting a Paws-itive Spin on Life!

“Therapy fluffies” are giving comfort to so many people coping with challenges in their lives.

Feb 23, 2020

(Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock.com)

Around the world, “therapy dogs” are now lifting people’s spirits by just being there for them.  These good-natured, affectionate canines can be seen providing their gentle support in hospitals, airports, nursing homes, schools, courtrooms, funeral homes, rehab facilities, patients’ own homes, libraries and more. In fact anywhere where regular people are facing life’s challenges. Words aren’t always required; sometimes all it takes is a nuzzle from a wet nose to help people share their feelings and begin the healing process. Goodnet is spotlighting seven of these special therapy dogs in a bid to show the heartwarming impact and reach of the gift they offer.

Therapy dogs are usually privately-owned canines belonging to giving-oriented owners keen to volunteer their time to help others with physical or mental challenges feel better.

While animals have been known to offer companionship to humans for centuries, more recently, the benefits that therapy animals give in helping people fight off negative emotions and keep their minds engaged with happy thoughts while they heal have been recognized by medical science. Studies have identified a decrease in cortisol (the stress hormone), lowered blood pressure, and mood boosts after people interact with animals.

1. Scout and friends come to the rescue of students with exam stress!

Final exam time is probably the least favorite time of the year on most college campuses, but Cleveland University, Kansas City (CUKC) has introduced the “Paws and Relax” program to help students overcome exam stress. CUKC is one of several colleges now bringing puppies to campus during midterms and finals week.

Faculty member, Dr. Shannon Vandaveer,  owns Pomeranian therapy dog, Scout, and explains that: “When dogs come into an environment that’s very high stress, people automatically change their focus.”

“Dogs are excellent for releasing positive mood-enhancing hormones and decreasing cortisol in the bloodstream,” librarian Simone Briand adds, after letting three dogs run around in her library. “We see an effect on our students” says Vandaveer. “They see that dog full of love for them and they don’t care what test they have coming up.”

(KristinaSh/ Shutterstock.com)

2. Lilly is helping kids in the courtroom

An innovative pilot program in Anne Arundel and Harford Counties in Maryland, has put labradoodle Lilly, and other docile and friendly dogs in the witness box for the benefit of children testifying in court. The kids get to enjoy the dog’s company, but the dog is kept out of view of the jury to prevent bias and distraction by the canine’s cuteness.

This initiative is now catching on in other states. Here’s Kory, a courtroom therapy dog who works in Michigan:

Lilly, the very first courtroom therapy dog, started in her new role in 2016. Her first job involved assisting a youngster testifying in a rape case. In 2020, she is part of a supportive canine team called upon three to four times a month.

(Danii Brown Photography/ Shutterstock.com)

3. Meet Mochi, a Bernese mountain puppy sharing love at a funeral home

Mochi offers love and comfort on request to the newly bereaved at the Macon Funeral Home in North Carolina. When Tori McKay, who has worked as Office Administrator at the home for a decade, turned 30, she decided that she wanted to do something significant for her clients. This pup, she explains, fulfils the need for natural, unconditional love, care, and support.

It is not surprising that more funeral homes feature therapy dogs. Their skill sets provide comfort and support to grieving families and their friends during an emotionally overwhelming time. They can be a consolation for people trying to manage their grief. This is especially true for grieving children who may not be comfortable talking about how they feel with adults.

4. Baxter’s the cute and scruffy dog helping traumatized kids in Welsh high schools

Since this adorable border terrier’s owner, Dave O’Driscoll, started working with selected high school pupils in the Cardiff area of Wales, in the UK, educators have noticed tangible “improvements in attitude, behavior and attendance as well as a general boost in happiness.” Not a typical therapy dog, the secret of the team working with Baxter is inviting these pupils on hour-long walks with this cute canine and trauma recovery practitioners, This helps the youngsters open up and get the help they need.

As O’Driscoll explained to Wales Online: "We take the young people out of school one to one and work with Baxter to build relationships. Baxter is a way in. The young people like to take the dog out, it’s an hour out of school and it’s easier to talk while you are walking. They are in charge and hold Baxter’s lead.”

5. Bentley, the support dog that’s a precious antidote to nightmares

In her book, The Girls: An All-American Town, a Predatory Doctor, and the Untold Story of the Gymnasts Who Brought Him Down, journalist, Abigail Pesta, discusses the positive change that Bentley, a springer spaniel and poodle mix support dog, is bringing to the life of Grace French.

For this trained ballerina, the realization that  her “treatments” were actually abuse came two years ago when several of the victims of Olympic doctor Lawrence G. Nassar faced him in court. However, her acceptance of what happened brought with it nightmares and flashbacks that eroded her sleep and wellbeing.  

When French embraced a friend’s idea that a dog could help, she found Bentley, and a trainer to work with him on gently waking her from her nightmares and to do regular sweeps of her apartment to make her feel safe.

“He knows when I’m anxious,” French said, observing that when she takes part in online therapy sessions, Bentley “senses my anxiety and comes running upstairs; he sits with me and helps me calm down.” Bentley also comes bounding if she says the word “lap,” so she can give him a hug.

Thanks to Bentley, French has come a long way in two years. She’s even founded an advocacy group, “Army of Survivors”, to educate communities and students about abuse and how to help someone in need.

(Mariusz S. Jurgielewicz / Shutterstock.com)

6. Zane, the first comfort dog at Pittsburgh police, just turned one!

After the team at Pittsburgh Police saw firsthand how trained dogs helped officers cope with trauma after a mass shooting, they welcomed Zane, their first comfort dog.

Zane is now the go-to member of the team, helping with peer support, critical incidents and community outreach and just celebrated his birthday with a dog-friendly cake.

7. Winnipeg students with reading anxiety are getting the help they need from Bailey and his friends

Organizers of the “See Spot Read” program at the Winnipeg Humane Society, understand that some kids need extra help with reading. Knowing that dogs really are a person’s best friend, they enlisted the help of schnoodle, Barney, his owner Eva Kazun, and some of his friends to boost reading abilities.

"The first time you think 'how are they going to understand you?'" shares Mila, a Grade 5 student from Beaumont School who is taking part in the program, as reported in a CBC article." But then they curl up beside you and they listen to you, sit there, or lay down and they're calm," she says, with a smile.

(grenierb / Shutterstock.com)

DAPHNE KASRIEL ALEXANDER, EDITOR IN CHIEF
Daphne has a background in editing, writing and global trends. She is inspired by trends seeing more people care about sharing and protecting resources, enjoying experiences over products and celebrating their unique selves. Making the world a better place has been a constant motivation in her work.