Therapy dogs making impact in community

Submitted photo Volunteer Madison Jeffers spends quality time with Lulu the therapy dog from Therapy Dogs International at the Elkins-Randolph County Public Library’s ‘Crunch Time’ for high school students. Therapy dogs like Lulu visit libraries, hospitals and schools to provide comfort and companionship to those in need.

ELKINS — Animals from Therapy Dogs International are making a positive effect on individuals in the community.

The Elkins area features six therapy dogs from TDI,who visit nursing homes, schools, hospitals, libraries and other establishments in the local area to provide comfort and support to those in need.

“The dogs really give comfort,” commented Robin Mams, a TDI-certified dog trainer. “We went to the library and they (the dogs) sit while children study.”

The therapy dogs have visited Davis Memorial Hospital, local schools, the Elkins-Randolph County Public Library, Colonial Place and other local organizations.

Mams said TDI personally affected her life, after she retired from nursing due to multiple surgeries.

TDI allowed Mams and her dog Lulu to have the ability to get back into the hospital atmosphere and positively affect the lives of patients again.

Mams said Lulu makes a positive impact on patients.

“It’s a great ministry,” Mams said. “Just to see people’s faces smile is worth a million dollars.”

Mams explained one impact that Lulu made on a family, during one of the dog’s visits to a local nursing home.

She said Lulu sensed that an elderly woman was about to pass away, and proceeded into her room to join her family.

The elderly woman then was able to pet and hold Lulu while Mams joined the elderly woman’s family in singing hymns until the woman passed.

Mams said there was a sense of peace and security in the room during this time that Lulu helped bring.

Mams is the only certified TDI evaluator in the state of West Virginia, and has had individuals travel from Hurricane and Berkley Springs to test their dogs for certification.

TDI-trained dogs are held to high and strict standards, as TDI wants to insure that certified dogs are capable of interacting to the best of their ability with the public.

New trainer examinations for the local trainers and dogs are held in the spring at Fancy Paws, a pet groomer and pet supplies store in Elkins, to ensure that all the training therapy dogs are fit to interact with the public.

All of the money received for the training is donated to a local 4-H club to aid children by supporting the annual 4-H Summer Camp.

Dogs are then put through a pass/fail series of tests that follow 13 scenarios.

After certification, therapy dogs trained by TDI have to remain up to date on their training, shots and community service hours or they will be temporarily suspended from the program.

Because the dogs are held to such a high standard and interact with the public often, TDI insures the dogs for up to $3 million.

The nonprofit organization was founded in 1976 and currently features volunteer handlers and their dogs in the United States, Canada and other countries.

TDI consists of purebred, pedigree, adopted and rescued dogs.

More information about Therapy Dogs International can be accessed at their website, at tdi-dog.org.

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