Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Heel 2 Heal - New Pet Therapy Program

Carolina Canines for Service, a Wilmington, N.C.-based non-profit that provides quality-trained service dogs to people with disabilities, at no cost, launched a new animal therapy training program developed by President/CEO Rick Hairston.

The new Carolina Canines for Therapy training program’s mission is to improve the quality of life for people though animal visitation. People and their pets, which have graduated from basic obedience courses, and completed Canine Good Citizens certification can enroll in Carolina Canines’ six-week preparation class that trains the team for volunteering at hospitals, public schools and special-care facilities.

Hairston began animal therapy training in 2002 using the Delta Society’s training curriculum. In January, he realized the need for a new curriculum that included more hands-on preparation prior to visitation, which no similar programs offered. Also unlike other programs, the completion of training includes a 20-point assessment of the animal and a criminal background check of the handler. Hairston developed Carolina Canines for Therapy along with Michele Godlevski, the owner of Teamworks Dog Training, Raleigh, N.C., whose organization became the first affiliate program.

Currently, Carolina Canines animal therapy program volunteers 1000 hours of time in the community each year for approximately 30 local facilities, including New Hanover Regional Medical Center, Lower Cape Fear Hospice Life Care Center and Hermitage House, as well as New Hanover County Schools.

“A dog has the ability to bring joy and happiness to a sick patient, shorten a hospital stay, assist with therapeutic interventions and comfort a child, as long as the animal receives proper training to prepare for these interactions,” said Hairston. “Our comprehensive, hands-on approach is really what sets us apart from other programs.”

Enrollment in the training program costs $135 with additional fees at the completion of the course. Anyone interested in registering with their dog for the next class, scheduled to begin February 24, can contact Carolina Canines at (910) 362-8181 or info@carolinacanines.org.

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