The other evening I was re-introduced to the powerful use of pet therapy for speech impairment. I use the word “re-introduced” because years ago this is how Harley and I started our pet therapy journey. He would sit with elementary students and listen as they read to him aloud…
I never believed he understood, but the gentle sound of a human voice is very soothing to a dog. Observing him, you would have thought Harley was extremely interested in the subject…
I cannot lie and tell you initially those many years ago that I “understood/accepted” this particular form of tutoring.
What I can tell you is this – weeks into the program, I was able to witness – first hand – how quickly Harley’s presence gave a 4th grader the confidence to abandon his fears of reading aloud.
Quickly- while twirling Harley’s tail between his fingers, he began to read with inflection and tone. His words were rhythmic and the pronunciation improved every week.
Little did I know this experience was creating the foundation for my moment earlier this week – many years later.
LIVING WITH APHASIA –
After meeting with the Speech- Language Pathologist to discuss Aphasia (pronounced [uh–fey–zhuh], – I was very excited! The possibilities of incorporating therapy dogs as a therapeutic tool to demonstrate the powerful use of pet therapy for speech impairment sounded like the pawfect fit!
The same philosophy used for the student tutoring programs could be applied with those living with Aphasia. If a stroke or brain bleed leaves someone with a speech and/or language impairment, a dog’s nonjudgmental nature could make it easier and more comfortable to practice reading and speaking to others.
We were invited to attend their monthly meeting (a Halloween Party Social) and introduce the reading team concept.
Harley was in full costume for this event…
PET THERAPY MEET AND GREET
The four other pet therapy teams were all gathered in the lobby when I arrived.
It couldn’t have been a better meet and greet senr. The group of patients, spouses and family supporters were so warm and welcoming. Our dogs were loved, petted and appreciated the moment they entered the room.
The majority of the pups were in costume as were some of the Volunteers themselves…
We mingled, and nibbled on light refreshments. I found myself filled with so much emotion as we all introduced ourselves.
Families and friends – taking this journey together. It was one of the most beautiful things I had ever participated in.
We split up into two teams played silent charades and laughed like silly school kids during recess.
Harley found two people to split his time with, a –
- spouse who comes alone to learn, share and remain engaged until her husband feels confident enough to join her.
- gentleman who spoke very little yet the twinkle in his eyes said so much.
They adored Harley’s presence, he was very accommodating to them both, and I was extremely proud of him.
TIMING IS EVERYTHING –
When the time was right, I was asked to describe the literacy program concept. As I spoke, all heads in the room bobbed up and down in agreement.
Two hours flew by and a few of the volunteers stood with staff for a group photo afterwards…
American poet and author Anthony Liccone once said –
Timing is everything
It means the –
Consideration of other events can greatly influence some desired outcome.
For me, the “other events” have been all our past pet therapy moments with students in libraries, nurses stations, gymnasiums, and classrooms. I am so excited with anticipation of what’s to come with this Aphasia Reading Project.
HELP NEEDED FOR PET THERAPY TEAMS –
As we work towards a start date – I’d love to have a name for this sub-group of volunteers and therapy pups who will be a part of this project.
- Tail Wagging Tutors
- Bow-Wow Reading Dogs
- PAWS for People
- Tail Wagging Readers
My mind keeps drawing a blank.
If you can think up a “catchy” name, I would be ever so grateful.
Have a great weekend. Harley is probably going to do his favorite thing since he worked a few hours last week…
The greatest good is what we do for one another ❤️