The Power of Therapy Dogs:
Introducing My Own Inspirational Story
By: Matthew Johnson of Waggz & Whiskerz
Have you ever wondered about the power animal healing? Once accepted, therapy dog owners say their dogs are ready from the time they step off the elevator onto the ward. Visits with each patient last for five minutes, or slightly longer. Some dogs, particularly larger ones, are “floor dogs” while others sit on the patient’s bed for stokes and cuddles. A dog that knows tricks may also perform for patients.
Program coordinators and volunteers find that visiting is physically and emotionally strenuous for the dogs. One volunteer explains that because the dogs are on an adrenaline rush during their visits, they become tired and restless near the end of their “shift”. As a result, dogs work for no
more than 90 minutes each week.
Often, says Dr. Angela Willis volunteers keep in touch with patients and families after they leave the hospital and sometimes, she adds they attend the funerals of patients they have worked with, In fact, the human volunteers at the children’s hospital have formed a support group to help each other deal with such emotional experiences. The volunteers continue to participate with their dogs because they have witnessed the value of their work. Paul Denardo a volunteer with Sunnybrook Hospital explains this value well; “pets are little ambassadors from the natural world who can bring us joy and comfort, enhance the treatment in a health care facility, and help to make a nursing home a home.”
I personally (Matthew Johnson, Owner of Waggz & Whiskerz) have had the fortune of using my own therapy dog, Dutch (A.K.A Woofie) a 7-year-old German shepherd Dingo cross.
After being diagnosed with bacterial meningitis of the brainstem in July 2010 and being the only survivor of the 7 recorded cases in Ontario. I personally learned what it takes to survive with the use of a therapy dog. Dutch (A.K.A.Woofie); went for a 9 week intensive training course in order to become suitable for therapy work.
While this disease has caused me to have constant dizziness due to my vestibular nerve being destroyed, blindness in one eye, 60 percent hearing loss and partial paralysis to one side of my face ad body. I give my thanks to Dutch and her visits to the hospital during my 6-week stay at Sunnybrook and her intensive effort during my recovery. I personally have her to thank for pushing me during my rehabilitation period, which will last for approximately a year and a half. She helps me see, hear and move forward, always by my side protecting me. During the course
of my rehabilitation I will be tracking my progress and Dutch’s as well via The Toronto Pet Daily. I will be updating everyone on my progress and also introducing similar stories that are inspirational and show the power of the human and dog bond. I will release articles on the 1st and 15th of each month.
This experience has also prompted me to help others with debilitating alignments and has initiated the Waggz & Whiskerz Therapy Dog program, which will commence a year to the date of my diagnosis. Waggz & Whiskerz therapy dogs are trained to provide affection and comfort to people in hospitals, retirement homes, nursing homes, schools, people with learning difficulties and stressful situations such as disaster areas.
Stay Tuned for more updates and inspirational stories by Matthew Johnson of Waggz & Whiskerz Pet Services.