Anyone who has a therapy dog will tell you that the key to success is to find what your dog likes to do best. For some dogs it’s volunteering at nursing homes, for others it’s being at hospitals. For my dog, Jazmin, it is anything to do with children. If she even hears a child’s voice, she will immediately start smiling and wagging her tail.
Chicks & Dogs is a new guest blog series featuring tales about, you guessed it, ladies and the dogs in their lives. The voices in this series will be as varied as the pooches we all adore. Got a story to share? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and please input “Chicks & Dogs” in the subject line. Today, meet Jazmin, a rescue dog who proudly, gladly serves as one half of a registered therapy team.
Jazmin and I have been a registered therapy dog team for over a year, and our primary focus is Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT), therapy that involves a dog as a form of treatment. The goal of AAT is to improve a person’s social, emotional or cognitive functioning.
At one of the facilities that we visit, we always follow the same routine: Introduce the kids to Jazmin and then have her “help” them do an art project. Recently, the art project theme was Super Heroes and their powers. Each child was asked to color in a Super Hero outline of a dog (representing Jazmin), and then show their artwork to Jazmin. For many kids in therapy situations, it is much more comfortable to present to Jazmin than to an adult.
After coloring in the ”Jazmin” outline, the youngest child—he couldn’t have been more than 7 years old—presented Jazmin with her picture. This is what he said:
“Jazmin smiles and loves everyone, even though people haven’t always been nice to her. That’s why she is ‘Super Happy Dog.’ She makes people happy wherever she goes, like when my mommy and daddy are yelling at each other, Jazmin would walk in the room and they would stop because she would smile and make them not hurt each other anymore.”
This is just one example of why dogs like Jazmin are great assets for therapy work. They can make kids and adults feel safe and loved, especially individuals that have been hurt by other people. A therapy dog can help children talk about feelings that they would not normally share with an adult.
Volunteering with Jazmin has changed my world. Whether it’s seeing her instinctively go to the child in the room that is having a tough day or watching a child who has suffered horrific abuse open up to her, my time with Jazmin has been life-altering. Most of the kids that Jazmin and I volunteer with seem to have one thing in common: At their core they crave unconditional love, and Jazmin can give them that.
Jennifer Kroiss and Jazmin are registered with Therapy Dogs International and primarily volunteer with A Rotta Love Plus and Gemini Rottweiler and Pit Bull Rescue (where Jazmin was rescued). When this pair is not volunteering, you can typically find them relaxing on a dog-friendly patio.