Last night I attended a new member orientation meeting of North Star Therapy Animals. It will be a long time before Murph and I are ready to do therapy work as a team, so I joined as an individual member in the meantime. Since this is something I have never done before, I wanted to get to know some people who have experience with training dogs for therapy work. Even last night at the membership meeting I got a few great suggestions for specific places to use for socializing him - places with elevators, Home Depot (the woman who suggested that said once the dogs get used to the big carts lumbering around there, wheelchairs are nothing at all!), and the big art fests in Minneapolis where there are tons of people and chaos. So I'm excited to have a few more specific places to take Murph once he's feeling better from his leg amputation.
I'm going to write a little bit about the organization now, but want to stress that I've been a member for less than 24 hours, so if any of the info below is wrong, that's all on me :)
NSTA is an all-volunteer organization with this mission statement: "The mission of North Star Therapy Animals is to improve the lives of countless individuals throughout the Twin Cities area by providing high-quality therapy animal teams and services to a wide variety of facilities." They also provide lots of information and resources for people thinking about doing therapy work with their dog as to how to get started, where to go, etc. They currently have around 140 therapy animal teams and they work with dozens of facilities around the Twin Cities, such as hospitals, elder care, assisted-living, hospice, shelters, schools, libraries, and more. Most of their therapy animals are dogs, but there are some other animals - guinea pigs, cats, even a small pony!
Since I will be spending the next year (at least!) training Murph before we can get certified as a team, I'll be helping out in other areas for now. One of the services NSTA provides is re-certification of therapy animals and their handlers - they work with an organization called Pet Partners, and one of the requirements for Pet Partner certification is that every animal and their handlers be re-evaluated every 2 years. I think my contribution for now will be to help out at the re-evaluations, which I am really excited about. Not only will I get to do a small part to help an organization that provides a great service, but I will also get to see exactly what Murph and I are going to need to learn during this year of training.
One thing I learned last night is there is a HUGE demand for therapy animal visits, many more than the current teams can cover, and more are being requested every day. If your dog is friendly and patient and loves people, and you are looking for something meaningful to do, therapy work might be a great option for you. You can read all about what is involved on their website: https://northstartherapyanimals.org/
Here's a quick update on Murph before I end: He's had a rough few days lately, but today he seems to finally be perking up a little. He's 7 days post-amputation today, and he finally seems to be feeling good enough that we can try weaning him off of the pain meds. His incision has healed beautifully. It has definitely been a long week for all of us, but it feels like he may be over the worst of it now. He has one more week of restricted activity ahead of him - my hope is that he feels so good he's bouncing off the walls for that whole week. Thanks to everyone for the prayers and good wishes for my sweet boy!!