Canine therapy means basically a healing contact between a dog and a person. The presence of dogs greatly improves an institutional environment. This benefit is provided by specially trained dog handlers who take their dogs for “petting visits” to nursing homes, orphanages, sanatoriums, hospices, institutions for mentally or physically disabled people, hospitals and other such places. Some establishments have their own “in-house” therapy dogs. Therapists use dogs in enhancing the healing processes of patients with mental or physical problems, in which case the dogs truly heal.
There were many canine therapy projects started in the Czech Republic and several were quite successful. Helping Paws has a complex vision for this field that includes the training and placing of “in-house” therapy dogs. The first such dog was placed in an institution near Zbuch u Plzne. A female flat-coated retriever named Arinka, under the guidance of her “master” therapist is improving the quality of life for many disabled children. This practice is widely practiced throughout the world but gained a “bad name” in the Czech Republic due to few poorly managed projects. Helping Paws proved that with extensive preparation and training of both dog and therapist, with solid rules and follow-up, allows dogs to be placed very successfully. Arinka is certainly such proof.
Visiting programs are a major part of our activities in this field. Helping Paws focuses on creating a solid network of well trained volunteer handlers and therapists to provide countrywide service to institutions. Helping Paws is also the first organization to consider the substantial differences between social activities and therapy. We believe that a visit to a nursing home needs a different approach than a visit focused on bringing relief to a child suffering muscle cramps. We therefore give our attention to developing methods as well as training dogs. In this we use the guidelines of the Delta Society based in the USA, which has pioneered methods in animal assisted therapy since 1977.
We would like to thank all our volunteers for giving joy week after week to all those who need it. We also thank our friends overseas for providing information and navigation for us!
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