The quest to make Cayman a therapy is definitely on. I got in touch with Ann, the Lee County Coordinator for the Delta Society affiliated Gulf Coast Pet Partners and Jodie, the coordinator for the programs offered at the library. I contacted her regarding the workshops I saw posted. Part of getting certified is to completed a 12 hour workshop or complete a home study course if there were no workshops in our area. The workshops take place in Punta Gorda in October and there will be another one in the spring, dates not yet determined. Punta Gorda is about 45 minutes from where we live. Even my husband, Nils, decided he would like to attend the two day workshop so we decided to wait until the spring to enter since 1. Cayman can not be tested to be a therapy dog until he is a year old which he will be in April… and 2. The price to have both Nils and I attend together would be $100 ($75 if I went alone). Anyhow, Ann was very helpful and has us down as future students and will contact us when it gets closer to the spring workshop.
On of the benefits of the Pet Partners Team is that Cayman could be a R.E.A.D dog, as in Reading Education Assistance Dog. This is when certified dogs in the Pet Partners Team go to libraries and sit with children while they read aloud. The purpose of this is that is allows children the ability to read aloud without feeling embarrassed, after all, a dog isn’t going to laugh at them when they have difficulties or mispronounce a word. Our local libraries refer to this program as Read to Dogs Program.
How the Read to Dogs Program works is that the owners/handlers and the dogs have a blanket that they spread out and at opposite ends of the room. When a child is ready the coordinator brings them in and the handlers introduce themselves, talk about the dog, basically being friendly. Sometimes the kids are nervous around the dogs so the coordinator may sit with them, and sometimes two kids will share a book or poem and switch off reading the lines. The idea is to encourage the kids to read. The dogs are there to listen without judgment and even allow the kids to pet them which can relax them, sometimes making reading easier. They allow the parents to watch as well, from a distance, to allow the children some freedom to make those mistakes without feeling they are disappointing their parents. I love the whole idea behind this!
Jodie went on to explain in the form of an email, that some owners make these cute bookmarks with the dogs picture on them so the kids get one when they are done reading. How cute is that? I am really excited of crafting those! And she said even some of the dogs have their own books in which the owners have the kids sign their names, the date and the title of the story shared and maybe even share some comments or memories of the day. I think I would go a step further and have Cayman’s picture taken with the kids he reads with. She says the hardest part of this is having the owner/handlers sit on the floor for an hour. Piece of cake if you ask me!
I already looked on our local libraries website for future dates in which the Read to Dogs Programs were scheduled. Jodie welcomed me to stop by and take a peek of the dogs, kids and handlers in action. I have a couple dates I am considering so that will be posted on Cayman’s calendar. Hmm…I wonder if I could bring him with me? Probably not since he is not certified yet. He has some training that needs to be done before we can do that.
Jodie and Ann even recommended some location in which dogs were permitted to gain the socialization experience he will need for some of the tests listed to become certified. They included the Bass Pro Shop which is a sporting goods store (although she has only heard this through the grapevine and isn’t 100% sure- although they are the ones hosting this years Responsible Dog Ownership Day on September 27th which we will be attending); the garden areas of the local hardware stores like Lowes and Home Depot, the Driftwood Nursery and the dog beaches and dog parks. They said there is even dog walks on occasion at the nature center so I have lots of options on places I can take him. Ann stated that even though I am waiting to take the workshop, I can still be working basic obedience with Cayman, which I fully intended to do anyhow. The most important commands/ actions to know are “sit”, “down”, “come”, and passing a neutral dog without sniffing, barking, or touching the other dog. Cayman needs a lot of help on this one. That’s the only time he pulls on the leash; he just can’t get over to that other dog to sniff its butt fast enough! And since most of the other dogs we have encountered could use some obedience training themselves, we usually find ourselves with some play barking and tough housing. Cayman is quite the social butterfly, those other dogs become fast friends with him, LOL.
I have also made contact with Sandy, who is a CGC evaluator. I will get to meet her in person at the Responsible Dog Ownership Day at the end of the month. I reached out to her since I know she was a CGC trainer listed online. She said they offer a CGC course through the local dog club, the Dog Obedience Club of Lee County, and do the evaluation periodically throughout the year. The training course is quite affordable, only $60 for a 6 week course which are once a week. A popular dog day care and training academy in the area charges $150 for an 8 week class. The only problem is the training location is quite some distance away from home and since its held on a workday, I don’t know if I would have time to go home after work, pick up Cayman and commute to the training location and still be there on time. But then again, I have a year before he can be tested, maybe when it’s closer to when he can be tested they will offer another location so that I could take the course right up to the time when he can be tested. Hmm… there is an idea. In the meantime I can enjoy watching the obedience and rally demonstrations that the Responsible Dog Ownership Day.
Also in the meantime, I have ordered a book on the CGC training and a book on therapy dogs. I have no doubt that by the time Cayman is a year old, he would make a perfect therapy dog candidate. I just need to keep working him everyday and expose him to as many of the situations listed in the test as possible between now and then. Wish me luck! This is quite an exciting and rewarding adventure we are about to begin!