The Hearts of Gold therapy program is an extension of community service that GRRMF offers. Our wonderful rescues and family pets are giving back to their communities by providing comfort, lifting spirits and making a PAWsitive impact on someone’s life during a therapy visit. These special canines have so much compassion to give to others and totally enjoy the interaction with each person or child. Our therapy dogs help students with stress relief during exams, open communication gaps with seniors, are involved with reading programs in schools and libraries, and bring smiles to those in memory care centers and hospitals.
Not all dogs are born with the exceptional temperament required to be a certified therapy dog. A good potential therapy dog should adore people and want nothing more than to connect with them, possess a physical calm (no barking, pawing, or jumping), be non-reactive to loud noises, and non-aggressive to other dogs and pets. Finding the type of therapy work that fits your dog’s personality is important as they need to be comfortable and relaxed while performing the task so they can connect with those they are interacting with appropriately.
Some canines are very comfortable with children while others love the elderly, some are social greeters who readily look for petting while others calmly enjoy listening to a story. It can be hard work and the dog needs to be good at it and enjoy doing it. We have found that canines who have attended an obedience class and received their Canine Good Citizen (CGC) certification are better prepared to do therapy work. It also tests your ability to handle your dog in a safe and effective manner and work as a team. Review the screening sheet to better understand the temperament and canine good manners that we are looking for so you can judge when your dog is ready to expand their horizon and spread golden joy to others through therapy work.
Those interested in joining our Hearts of Gold therapy program can attend one of our screening events to see if you and your dog have the qualities for becoming a dog/handler therapy team. Screening events are held every other month in the Tampa, Melbourne and The Villages area. At these events, you and your dog will be introduced to medical equipment, proper techniques to approaching individuals, and receive one-on-one feedback as your practice your skills at different evaluation stations. The cost to participate in a screening event is $20 payable to GRRMF Hearts of Gold and you must complete a Volunteer form to be covered under our insurance policy. Those interested in attending can visit our Events page for upcoming dates / locations, or contact us for more information at GRRMFTherapypups@grrmf.org .
Each newly certified dog/handler team is presented with a Hearts of Gold logo tee shirt and personalized dog vest so our teams are easily identified at therapy visits and GRRMF sponsored events. Yearly health certificates are required and new teams must complete three supervised therapy visits with an evaluator who will give helpful tips to make each visit rewarding. When we receive a therapy visit or special event request, all dog/handler teams are notified via email correspondence. We also share an updated facility list with all our certified teams so weekly or monthly therapy visits can be scheduled according to your personal calendar. Plus, you and your canine companion are surrounded by people who share the same passion – spreading joy and comfort to those less fortunate.
Don’t have a dog but interested in the program? There are so many areas where your special talents would be an asset. We need volunteers to work behind the scene to research additional locations for screening events, perform administrative duties, coordinate facility visits, role play at screening events, photography, and media writers. Not a GRRMF volunteer – click here to complete an application and list your areas of interest. A coordinator will reach out to you.