Being a therapy dog volunteer is about bringing some of that happiness and companionship to shut-ins and nursing home residents," says June Hixson, president of PAWS-Pets Are Wonderful Support-a club to which Trotto and Triever belong.
"Therapy dogs need special training, testing, certification, and vaccinations, and that costs money," Hixson
says of the commitment."It also takes a special person who can give a lot of self."
In order for Triever to be certified, PAWS requires he
become familiar with wheelchairs, gurneys, etc., as well as having the right temperament (more important than breed) and lots of obedience training.Using only motivation and positive reinforcement, PAWS training prepares volunteers and animals for educational visits to schools, libraries, and senior and day care centers.
At nursing facilities, volunteer teams perform for large groups and visit with small groups or one-on-one, where residents often pet, hug, and kiss the dogs, often recalling stories of their own animals.
"It's very rewarding because we see the difference we make in people's lives every time we go out," Hixson
says."It lifts their spirits-and these dogs know when someone needs them."
As for Trotto, she
plans to spend more time showing and volunteering with Triever once he's
"It's one of the reasons I'm retiring," the research chemist says."Until now, I've only been able to go out on weekends.Now I'll be able to go during the day, when it's needed the most."
Susan Stets, who writes from her
home In Fairless Hills, Pa., has three dogs, including a golden.