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By Karyn Cordner
People are beginning to understand more about the good work Therapy Dogs do, and there is a trio of them helping school kids right here in Granby. James, an Australian shepherd, Ted, a long-haired dachshund, and Raven, a German shepherd, come to Kelly Lane School every week. For three hours each week, James, Ted and Raven nestle on the floor with students and patiently listen to stories read to them by the kids. The young students have an opportunity to practice their literacy skills without any particular pressure to perform.
In addition to visiting Kelly Lane, James has also visited the high school and the middle school, working with students and providing much needed stress relief during exam week in January. All three of the dogs will be visiting the high school during finals exams in June.
James is owned by Sally King. He will be five years old later this month, and is a breed champion and a retired agility competitor. He is also an AKC Canine Good Citizen. Raven, four years old, was bred by and born at an organization that trains guide dogs for the blind but changed careers after her trainers thought she was ‘too friendly’ to be a guide dog. She lives with Karyn Cordner in Simsbury. Ted lives with the Fish family in Granby and was recently certified as a therapy dog with his handler, Pam Fish.
James and Raven are certified by Bright Spot Therapy Dogs (www.bright-spot.org). Their training included learning and reviewing the skills and techniques needed to visit and comfort people in hospitals, nursing homes, day care centers and schools. An important component of the training is development of teamwork between dog and handler so that everyone’s safety (dog, handler and person visited) is ensured. Before being officially certified as therapy dog teams, James and Sally, and Raven and Karyn attended multiple class sessions and passed a final evaluation at an actual site visit. Ted is certified by Intermountain Therapy Animals. He and Pam also attended classes and were evaluated before being certified
There is an important distinction between therapy dogs and service dogs. A service dog performs specific tasks to assist a person with a specific disability such as blindness, hearing impairment, medical alerts or PTSD. The pair has the legal right to be together anywhere the general public is allowed.
A therapy dog provides therapeutic support to people other than its handler. To visit places such as schools, nursing homes, libraries, hospitals or hospices, the team must be invited.
Another critical distinction is that service dogs should never be approached or petted by the general public. A service dog must concentrate one hundred percent on his or her owner at all times. Therapy dogs, on the other hand, are there for all to pet and admire whenever they are wearing their vests and are on the job.
Therapy dogs provide a valuable service to all kinds of people, and Granby has its own super star canines!
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