by Lee Juslin
When Deb got her Maltese puppy, Kalia, whose name in Greek means good and beautiful, she was determined that the little pup would follow in the paw steps of her previous Maltese, Simka, as a therapy dog.
Deb, a martial arts teacher, began Kalia’s training by taking her to work where it became immediately evident that Kalia loved children. Next Deb and Kalia, at four months old, followed experienced therapy dogs on their rounds during hospice visits. Deb and Simka had visited in hospitals and hospice facilities, and Deb was hoping to do the same with Kalia. But, how to capitalize on Kalia’s love of children.
Kalia easily passed obedience training and earned her CGC so that by the time she was a year old she was ready to become a certified therapy dog. Deb and Kalia, as members of Love on a Leash, began therapy visits on their own, and Kalia soon developed a rather unlikely friendship with Devlin, a Doberman Pinscher and also a certified therapy dog and member of Love on a Leash. (See Devil of a Therapy Dog). A Mutt and Jeff duo for sure!
Deb and Kalia visited in hospice and also Kennewick Hospital where it takes six months for therapy dogs to be cleared for pediatric visits.
But Deb, still thinking about Kalia’s special love for children, wanted to extend Kalia’s therapy visits to include more children. Then, through hospice, she learned about Cork’s Place, a facility aimed at helping children ages three through eighteen who are grieving the loss of a loved one. The facility did not have a therapy pet program, but Deb was able to work with them to start one.
Cork’s Place provides a nonjudgmental environment where the children can express feelings more openly than they perhaps can at home. The program is divided into groups according to age, and a small group of therapy dog teams, including Kalia’s best friend, Devlin, visit the facility twice per month. At Cork’s Place, the therapy dog teams wait in the lobby for the kids to arrive. They greet the children and meet any new participants. Then, the group of kids meets in something called the Circle Room.Here, they sit in a circle and talk with each other and counselors while most of the dogs move around the circle cuddling here, giving kisses there, and generally offering comfort. Kalia, being the smallest of the dogs, sits on Deb’s lap and children come up to pat her and talk to her. Since the children at Cork’s Place are allowed to express themselves freely, the atmosphere can be loud, even unruly, but Kalia is patient and has proved to be a calming influence on the more active kids. It must be true that good things come in small packages, because Kalia kisses, given gently, are much prized by the children.
Read more animal related articles by Lee here in KRL.