Therapy dogs come to Lehman College

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Murphy with Dugeidy Ortiz, Director of Wellness Education and Promotion Program

The Wellness Education and Promotion Program at Lehman College hosted its first ever Pause for Paws event for students during the dreaded midterms period. Students had a chance to take a break from their busy studying and work schedules to get (and give!) some love from therapy dogs provided by Pet Partners.

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Many times therapy dogs get confused with service dogs, even though both provide valuable services. Therapy dogs provide companionship and joy to other people, while service dogs are specially task-trained for a disabled person’s specific needs. Many studies have highlighted the benefits of therapy dogs like providing emotional and physical benefits during times of stress, whether it is stress from work or after a major disaster. They also provide other important services that include helping children with autism, being “reading buddies” to school children, aid cancer patients, and being a positive force (psychologically and physically) to patients and staff in long-term health care environments. Therapy animals are not only limited to dogs though; there are certified therapy cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, birds, and miniature horses.

Left to right: Satchmo, Rameses, and Murphy

Left to right: Satchmo, Rameses, and Murphy

“They are so intuitive, they know the difference of where we are. We go to Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital and he will calmly lay down with the cancer patients. Here, or with children, he’ll know he can be more excited.” said Carole, the handler of Satchmo, a pomeranian named after American jazz trumpeter Louis Armstrong’s nickname.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Before becoming a therapy dog, Satchmo was brought to the Humane Society as a young pup with a broken leg. “Satchmo told me I need a job and I knew his talents could be used for a better cause.” Realizing that he was quick to pick up tricks, they both joined with Pet Partners to undergo eight weeks of training that requires the dogs to be comfortable in stressful and loud environments with people. Currently, Satchmo is working on agility training and volunteering with A Fair Shake for Youth, an after school program for at risk children.

A fluffy white maltipoo named Murphy came from a difficult past as a mother in a puppy mill in Tennessee. After being rescued from the puppy mill, Murphy was spayed in Arkansas, fostered in New Jersey, and now lives on the Upper East Side. Being a therapy dog for two years, Murphy has a busy schedule visiting nursing homes, long-term care hospice’s, and being a reading buddy to kindergarten students and first graders. Murphy clearly enjoys her work, as her handler explained, “We hit the lobby of the hospice and she goes running to the people, goes on her back legs, taps them on the knee, and asks them to pet her.” At the moment, Murphy is trained under the predictable qualification area but will soon advance to a complex qualification area (dogs trained in situations where they might deal with a lot of physical touch).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA A 10 year old greyhound named Rameses  (the name given to 11 Egyptian pharaohs during the New Kingdom period) is a former racetrack dog. Coming from New Hampshire, Rameses was rescued by his handler Tom and lives with two other greyhounds. “Years ago, my mother was in a nursing home and I could see how the people enjoyed the dogs. A lot of people that go into nursing homes had dogs but are unable to take them with them.” said Tom. Another busy dog, Rameses visits nursing homes and works as a reading buddy at libraries and in a grade school.

Interested in making your pet a therapy animal or are in need of their services? Visit the Pet Partners website at petpartners.org or their Facebook.

Also check out the awesome work done by A Fair Shake for Youth at afairshakeforyouth.org or their Facebook page.

Special thanks to Lehman College Wellness Education and Promotion for providing students with an opportunity to meet these great dogs.

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