Monday, March 2, 2015

Charlie's a PAL



Back in November, after the Ferguson grand jury verdict was announced, I blogged about wanting to get involved with my community.  I work in the arts at an organization that has deep ties to the DC area, but I felt like it was important to be more personally invested in my city and in the lives of its inhabitants who aren't as privileged as I am.  After researching options, Jon and I found an amazing program called The Homeless Children's Playtime Project that we really wanted to volunteer with; unfortunately, though, Jon's current schedule doesn't allow the commitment that the Playtime Project asks of its volunteers.

So, until we have the time to devote to that sort of program, we've decided to go the route we've half-joked about for years: we're getting Charlie certified as a therapy dog.  On Saturday morning, our application having been successful earlier in February, Charlie and I arrived at the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Northwest DC for preliminary approval by People Animals Love.

PAL was founded to "leverage the human-animal bond to make the DC metro community a better place," and partners with organizations all over the area to bring pets - primarily dogs as cats can be unpredictable, though other animals are allowed as well - into  contact with people who, for whatever reason, can't have their own.  The majority of the organizations PAL works with are hospitals, hospices, and nursing homes, but I'm especially enthusiastic about their collaborations with after-school programs and libraries.  It's incredibly beneficial for children to read to dogs, who don't judge the children's abilities, and having access to pets maximizes children's natural affinity for animals to stimulate scientific inquiry, improve reading and math, reward good behavior, and cultivate social skills.

Along with a dozen other dogs and their owners, Charlie and I attended an hour-long orientation; proved his ability to sit, lie down, stay, and come; and then mingled for 30 minutes with some of the seniors at the AFRH.  He passed the morning's tests with flying colors, and now we have to do two site visits at approved locations for final evaluation and approval.  I can't wait to get more fully involved in our community with Charlie!

18 comments:

  1. Oh my gosh! I love this! I especially love the idea of children reading to the dogs. Makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. High five to you humans, and extra ear scratching for Charlie. ;)

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  2. What a wonderful program! I never thought about the benefit of children practicing their reading with dogs, and I love the idea of extending the sharing community to animals! Great stuff!

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  3. Sarah | For the Love of ChowMarch 2, 2015 at 3:26 PM

    Way to go! Without getting too emotional - participating in this program will change you - you'll become much closer to Charlie as you realize how attuned dogs are to navigating the complex emotions of humans and giving them exactly what they need, and you'll be forever changed at seeing how many people just need a little extra love, and how something so simple - taking your dog for an outing and chatting with people- can have such a profound impact on you and those you are serving. Best of luck and we can't wait to hear all about it here!

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  4. Ah! This is so exciting. My sorority did an event when I was in college called KAT's and Dogs (we're Kappa Alpha Theta), and it was then that I fell in love with the idea of service dogs. I think Charlie will be a great service dog.

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  5. Charlie is going to be so amazing at this job! I know he will bring so much joy wherever he goes. I've always wanted to get Millie certified...but we might need to work on her obedience a little bit before that happens...

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  6. Fredrik worked in a facility with Alzheimer's patients and said they had a program like this that not only lifted the spirits of those living there but also the staff.

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  7. What an inspiration. So many people talk about getting involved but don't take the steps to do it. This is really lovely!

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  8. I know, it's the sweetest thing! Charlie will get ALL the ear scratches :)

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  9. yes! it helps make kids more confident because dogs don't judge reading ability. love that!

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  10. aw yay! "service" and "therapy" are probably more technical terms... I call him my "comfort" dog (though someone pointed out that that has uncomfortable historical/cultural connotations so maybe I shouldn't?)

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  11. haha obedience is DEFINITELY a work in progress for us! but Charlie is super gentle with kids even when he's been a little more... demanding with adults, so I think we'll be good :)

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  12. we're going for our first solo site visit next weekend - I can't wait!

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  13. I hadn't thought we could seriously pursue it, but then your IGs inspired me to research the options around here! Charlie was absolutely my bulwark against... well, myself when I was unemployed and Jon was across the ocean. I'm glad we'll get to share that strength with more people!

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  14. That's so awesome! What a great opportunity for you guys to get involved, and use your pup as well.

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  15. This is so cool Betsy! I absolutely love it. My mom used to take our old Keeshond to the nursing home becasue basically all that wonderful dog wanted was to be petted constantly. I think pets can really lift spirits. Good for you!!

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