Hospice of SW Georgia Seeking Volunteers for Pet Therapy Program

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Hospice of Southwest Georgia Seeking Volunteers for Pet Therapy Program

Friday, October 10, 2014

It’s no secret that animals are special.

We treat our pets as our children, providing them the same love, affection, care and attention that we give to those in our family. Animals feel our pain, our joy and our stress—this comes as no surprise to anyone who has a pet.

Animals also allow people to focus, even if for a short period of time, on something other than themselves.

Now in its third year, Archbold Health Services’ Hospice of Southwest Georgia dog therapy team has helped bring love and comfort to many hospice patients.

“Studies have shown that interaction with dogs can promote relaxation and relieve agitation, anxiety and stress in patients,” said Leigh Ann Falconer, coordinator of the dog therapy program and owner of Bark Busters Red Hills, a home dog training company.  “Our volunteers and their dogs visit patients in their home, in the hospital, in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. It’s always very fulfilling to see the smiles from patients and their loved ones when we visit. ”

Falconer said the program has grown tremendously since it started just three years ago, and now Hospice of Southwest Georgia is looking to add more dedicated dog owners and their pets to the dog therapy team.

“Good therapy dogs are quick learners with loving, easy-going personalities and can stay calm in unusual or stressful situations,” said Falconer. “Handlers complete special training with their dogs through the American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizen Certification program, and the dogs also complete Dog Therapy International testing to become certified therapy dogs.”

Bark Busters Red Hills will hold a six-week general group training class that will also cover therapy dog training  starting Monday, October 13, at 6:00pm at Thomasville Animal Hospital. The cost of the six-week course is $100 and covers the dog obedience course and all testing and certification fees required to become a volunteer in the Hospice of Southwest Georgia Therapy Dog Program.

To enroll in the class or for more information on how you and your dog can participate, call Leigh Ann Falconer, (229) 403-9147.