Sandra Frost had just lost her 19 year old dog. Her mother was in a nursing home. Her next dog had to, just had to, be a therapy dog. The search for that special dog took months and where, of all places, did Sandra find her special dog? Kijiji. Who knew?
Sandra went to visit the advertised four month old, female golden retriever. As expected, the puppy was adorable. Unexpectedly, however, the little girl lived in one room with university students. Also unexpectedly, the students said they’d bought the puppy to replace a cat that had fallen off their 23rd floor balcony. Sandra had heard enough – she was determined to get the puppy out of there. And so, Tea came home. Home to live with Sandra. When released into her new yard, Sandra said the look on Tea’s face said it all -- like she was seeing a provincial park.
Immediately the puppy started visiting Sandra’s Mom in the nursing home and did so well that by the time Tea was a year old, she had her therapy dog evaluation – passing with flying colors! Tea now has additional certification that allows her to work with children. She’s a busy girl, enjoying her visiting duties at two nursing homes, numerous Paws Rooms and then, there’s the special visits -- the ones where Tea reminds people of their own golden retrievers. Tea’s got a good nose for knowing when someone needs a little extra loving.
And then, there’s the Team Leader Duties…
“Durham Region is getting too big for one person,” was the call from Michele Peddle, who then was the Therapeutic Paws of Canada (TPOC) Team Leader for all of Durham Region. There was just one thing to do. Step up. In 2013 Sandra became Team Leader for the Ajax/Pickering Team. In 2015, Sandra stepped up again and became Team Leader for the Whitby Team as well – the one Piper and I will join when we become certified as a therapy dog team.
The duties of a Team Leader with TPOC are varied and numerous. First, there’s managing the dog and handler teams, which means ensuring handlers are familiar with, and follow, TPOC guidelines. Team Leaders conduct team evaluations and schedule visits to facilities – which includes meeting with and otherwise staying in communication with the facilities. Then, there’s overall team communication and the coordination required for having therapy dog teams attend special events.
The Pickering/Ajax/Whitby Team has grown from five when Sandra first became a Team Leader to its present number of active teams: 28. And that includes “Max the Cat” – the first feline member of the Team. Fifteen of the pet therapists are certified to work with children – truly, a major accomplishment. But more are coming. At the time of this writing, there are eight requests for evaluations in Fall 2016 so they can look forward to more Child Therapy Teams soon. Good thing, because the number of facilities requesting pet therapists is growing. Sandra’s team members visit hospitals, adult day programs and nursing homes as well as conducting special visits that include detention centres and hospice care. Then there are those special community events.
Sandra says, “Handling the teams and the facilities has been very rewarding. It’s amazing to see our Team evolve into a well-respected Pet Therapy group in the community. I have found that the members have all the same characteristics: they love their pet, people and bringing these two together for an awesome experience.”
And from this Team member, Sandra, thanks for your tireless efforts and good humour. And your dogs, Chance and Tea, are wonderful, too.