By Emily Minah, DFD Apprentice Program Instructor
You pull into your driveway after a long day at work, with barely enough energy to make it into the house. You feel exhausted and stressed from a hard day. But you know, once you make it in the door, your stress and fatigue will gently be lifted. There to greet you and help ease your mood is your friend, your companion, your beloved dog. For anyone who has ever been lucky enough to share their home with a dog, this scenario is very familiar. Dogs seem to have a natural ability to make people feel better. Their knowing soft gaze, their loving listening ears, their soft furry coats and most of all, their accepting, tender spirits combine to provide a special type of therapy that is so needed in our daily lives.
Imagine the benefits this naturally therapeutic nature would have when combined with professional training. This is the mission of Dogs for the Deaf's Program Assistance (PA) Dogs. PA Dogs go to work with and assist professionals such as physicians, teachers, counselors, and court room advocates in the treatment of and work with their clients. These dogs can help improve overall cognitive developement and provide a calming effect, allowing the professional to better serve or treat the clients. These dogs do not have public access except when accompanying the professionals and their disabled clients in order to provide assistance to the clients.
A unique aspect of this program is the dog gets to "clock out" at the end of the day. The dog is a working professional when accompanying their person to the school or office, then gets to enjoy the pet dog life once the work day is done. The dog is trained to assist the working professional, teacher or counselor to enhance the service clients receive. If you are someone who serves students, patients, or clients who would benefit from the additional therapy of a professionally trained dog, then a PA Dog might just be the co-worker you've been looking for.
Cindy from DFD Client Services with Rexi
||Nelson with his class
PA Dogs can be any breed or size. It depends on the needs of the professional and his or her clients as to what size or breed will work best... or be the best match. Nelson is a black lab that DFD recently placed at Ashland Middle School with a teacher of a special needs class. Rexi, a Chihuahua mix, is currently in training at DFD. Rexi is a natural PA Dog and loves her lap time in the office.
Dogs serve and enrich our lives in so many ways. Dogs for the Deaf's Program Assistance Dogs allow dogs to reach and improve the service of a wide variety of people in need by being part of the workforce.
For more information about DFD's Program Assistance Dogs, click HERE.
*This article originally appeared in the October 2012 Jacksonville Review. Click HERE to visit the Jacksonville Review's website.