Have you ever seen those heartwarming videos of dogs who visit sick patients, lying on the bed with them and giving them comfort? Or that small child who reads a book to a really cute dog, and that dog appears fascinated by every word the child speaks? At the end, did you think, “How did they get the dog to behave like that? I bet there was a treat involved!” or “My Harley could do that! Maybe I should contact the local library?” In this month's column, I'll do my best to answer those questions, and just maybe your pet will be the next dog we see in the library video, hanging onto a child's every word!
The dogs mentioned in the above examples are Therapy Dogs, and they provide attention and/or emotional comfort to many people. Sometimes we get these confused with Emotional Support Dogs, which provide attention and/or emotional comfort to only one person. If, for example, Harley the Poodle stayed at home and helped keep Susan calm down when she was having a really bad day, Harley would be an Emotional Support Dog. Therapy Dogs are also not Service Dogs. Services Dogs are trained to perform a specific task in order to assist someone with a disability.
Currently, in the United States, there are no legal requirements for certification for Therapy Dogs, and if Susan decided to bring Harley to the library, and the library approved the visit, then she could do so. But should she? Not all of us humans want to be a therapist or listen to a child read, correct? Is she sure this is something Harley would be good at? Let's consider several qualities which make a good Therapy Dog.
- Harley must genuinely love all people, including total strangers. Not just tolerate people; he must truly enjoy interacting with them.
- He must feel comfortable voluntarily approaching someone he doesn't know, and being gentle but not over-bearing.
- He must be able to do greet people in a completely calm manner, never jumping up on someone.
- Harley must remain calm, no matter what happens. One person may squeeze him too hard. Another may pull his tail. A third may grab a handful of fur.
- All those unfamiliar sights and sounds can be unsettling. He must be able to stay calm and focused. People drop things. Doors slam. Monitors beep. People talk loudly.
- Harley must take it in his stride when a wheelchair goes rolling by. And ignore the chicken dinner which was just placed only a few inches in front of his face.
- He would also need to be up to date on his shots, know his basic commands, have good doggy manners, and be comfortable around other dogs.
You would also need to evaluate yourself. You'll need to know Harley very well, so if you notice the slightest sign he's becoming stressed, you can remove him from the situation and take him home.
Still believe your canine companion has what it takes to be a Therapy Dog? A well-trained dog helping bring comfort to the sick or helping a child discover the joy of reading is a beautiful thing. Best of luck to you and Harley!
Spring has sprung, trees are re-leafing, and many humans and their pets are becoming more active outside. Around this time of year, many of us begin switching up our regular diets, leaving out comfort foods and adding in more fruits and vegetables freshly picked from the garden. Few tastes can outmatch a warm, luscious red tomato, straight off the vine! What if you are a pet parent though? Can your dog or cat eat a tomato?
On the surface, this appears to be a rather easy question, but when I began to research “Can a cat eat a tomato?” I discovered my question was too broad. Is the tomato ripe or green? Is it direct from the garden or in the form of tomato paste? Is it the fruit or the stem? As it turns out, cats cannot eat the stem, the plant, or the green fruit. In doing research, I came across a discussion about toxicity and the confusion surrounding the two different types of poisons in red tomatoes. Small amounts of tomato paste when added to cat food seems to be perfectly fine. Don't just assume your pet can eat a particular food, just because you can eat it: what is healthy to you may be toxic to your furry friend. If you are interested in cat safety and tomatoes, you can find out more [HERE].
From my understanding, cats and dogs are primarily meat eaters, but it is okay to give them occasional fruits and vegetables. They can often do your pet a world of good! Be aware, though, that for some animals with sensitive stomachs, a change in diet can upset their stomachs.
Here are some safe foods for both cats and dogs; however, I would recommend only giving these to them in moderation, perhaps as an occasional treat.
In the case of fruits, always be sure to remove the skins, seeds, pits, and rinds of these fruits, as most of these will harm your pet! Safe fruits include: apples, apricots, bananas, blueberries, cantaloupe, mangoes, oranges, pears, pineapples, raspberries, strawberries, and watermelon. Other safe foods include oatmeal (cooked, no sugar added), bread (NO dough), peas, green beans, eggs (cooked), and carrots (cooked).
Foods to avoid
Here are some food items you should NEVER feed your cats or dogs. Ever. Also, remember, I am not a professional. Always take your veterinarian's advice over mine.
If your pet is showing any of these signs, however, get them immediately to the nearest vet or animal hospital:
Pay attention to what you feed your pet. Isn't he or she worth it?
Unless otherwise cited, my information comes from these four sources: