Therapy Dogs: A Source Of Comfort

By Kristen Tripodi

Published 12/08 2013 05:36PM

Updated 12/08 2013 09:50PM

BURLINGTON, Vt.- Research shows your favorite animal can help improve your health.
With that in mind volunteers with the non-profit organization Therapy Dogs of Vermont visit the hospital or nursing home with a furry friend to help relieve people's stress.

Every other week Todd suits up and goes to work.
“He puts on his bandana and he gets in the car and he gets all excited about where he's going,” said Katie Ziegler, Todd’s owner and a member of the Therapy Dogs Vermont board.
Todd is a certified therapy dog with Therapy Dogs of Vermont.
For this Shih Tzu work consists of a few hours of non-stop head rubs and attention.
“You’re a good boy, a good boy,” said Louise Diamond, who visited with Todd at his visit to Starr Farm Nursing Center.
Todd and his owner Katie Ziegler, 22, are one of more than 200 therapy dog teams who work with Therapy Dogs of Vermont. The organization helps train dogs like Todd throughout Vermont, New York, New Hampshire, and Canada.
It also arranges visits to nursing homes such as Starr Farm Nursing Center in Burlington.
“We just really enjoy having them here because we can't have dogs of our own anymore so this is the best next thing,” said Diamond.
While residents enjoy his visits - for Todd this a chance at a better life. He was a stray in Tennessee when Katie adopted him about a year ago.
“He's completely blind. But he's very, very friendly and he’s got a great temperament for this type of work,” said Ziegler.
Katie says her own hospital stay a few years ago inspired her to get involved.
“I was visited by many therapy dogs during that stay. And it was just amazing to have them visit. It completely brightens your day,” remembers Ziegler.
So she set out to train Todd to become a therapy dog and the two went through months of training.
“Then you go on to do three evaluations in an actual facility,” said Ziegler.
Once Todd was certified he was ready for official visits; giving people a chance to chat with both him and Katie.
“The best part of doing this work is seeing how much the dogs and the people enjoy it. It’s not just for the people, the dogs have a great time too,” said Ziegler.

Therapy Dogs of Vermont runs completely on donations and all teams are volunteers.
As part of the organizations fundraising effort Katie and her family organized a holiday craft show this Saturday at the Stowe High School. The show runs from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.

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