Dr.Dog, the animal therapy program initiated in 2002 is going on in full swing and other schools for special children are approaching us to work the magic wand with their wards too.We welcome our new entrants to the program, Sankalp in Annanagar and V Excel from R A Puram. They started right away with four dogs a month and have reported good results for the short time that they've been into it. Apart from the retrievers-as in golden and labradors, we now have terriers, basset hounds and border collies also in our fold. Two new mongrels are waiting in the wings for their turn to join Dr. Jumble.
Aikya in R A Puram decided to adopt a mongrel from Blue Cross and now they have their very own school dog, an adorable multicolored bundle of fun, available for the school children throughout their working hours. The school dog concept is something which will yield better results in the long run since children can snatch private moments with the dog anytime they choose to, instead of waiting for their turn.
A pleasant surprise came from the YRG Care Center run by Dr. Suniti Solomon inside the Taramani VHS compound. We started the program circa July'03 with one dog, Dr Lara. What was meant for the patients recovering from Aids turned out to be a double blessing in that the staff find it extremely relaxing and rejuvenating to be with the Dr. Dog. We had not taken into account that the attending staff are also going through a lot of stress while taking care of the patients and playing with the retriever or just having it around in the rooms has had a very soothing effect on one and all.
Now, Dogs say "heal" !
Dogs make delightful pets, as we all know. But, did we know that pet dogs are now doubling up as therapy animals?! Welcome to Dr. Dog, an animal therapy program mooted for the first time in India jointly by the Blue Cross of India with the AAF (Animals Asia Foundation of Hong Kong).
Animal therapy is very popular abroad, a tried and tested theory that people and patients do benefit through sustained interaction with animals. Generally dogs, cats, horses, rabbits, dolphins and fish are the commonly chosen animals involved in this program. To begin with, we have started with dogs in India. Even though, dogs and other pets have been taken to schools and hospitals on a sporadic basis throughout our country, more so inadvertently, this is the first time, a formal program is being launched on a sustained basis with regular monitoring of the progress made.
So, what is Dr. Dog and what does it do? Regular visits to schools for children with learning disabilities (autistic / dyslexic children benefit the most) or to hospitals ,show a marked improvement ,over a period of time, in the children's communication and concentration levels and makes the patients forget their pain while the pet is around. All the dog has to do is just be around. No fancy tricks or special skills are needed. The dog instinctively takes to the children and can be extremely gentle with the patients.
When Dr. Chinny Krishna- the Chairman of Blue Cross- was attending an AAF conference in Hong Kong, and heard about Dr. Dog, he immediately resolved to extend it to India too. With the AAF representatives. Ms. Jill Robinson and Ms. Winnie Luk, visiting us in April this year, Dr. Dog was formally launched at the CPR foundation in Chennai, the first city to start the program. Blue Cross had brought over 25 volunteers with their friendly pets and the AAF reps assessed each and every dog to ascertain their temperament and certify them as Dr. Dogs. The tests are done to ensure that at no point of time will the child or the animal be exposed to stressful situations. 10 schools, spread over all parts of the city, also participated in the launch and slide shows followed by an interactive session, explained the concept to the teachers, how it works elsewhere and how the children stand to benefit from the program.
In June, the first visit was to the ESK learning center in South Chennai, with Dr. Bozo, a lovely 2 yr old Labrador, accompanied by his companion, Ms. Shruthi, and at the end of one hour, the children were begging Bozo to stay on or come the next day! Visits are scheduled only once a month, to avoid stress for the animal and the companion must always accompany the dog on all visits to ensure that he feels comfortable. Also, the same dog visits the same school for at least 6 months to build up a rapport with the children and vice versa. Volunteers are also scheduled the schools in and around their neighborhood to make it convenient for them to continue the program, long term. But looking at the enthusiasm and gusto with which the children welcome the dog, we plan to have weekly visits, done by more volunteers to the same school. We have completed two visits, as of today, to all the schools taking part in the program and the response has been overwhelming, to say the least. The teachers as well as the volunteers will monitor the progress and based on the reports, we may introduce variations so as to make optimum use of the program. Later, we plan to include old age homes, orphanages, and regular schools so that they can enjoy the company of a loving pet animal. The ideal situation is to have a pet at home but since it is not practical or viable for everyone, Blue Cross has chipped in to make it possible for them to experience the love and joy , a pet animal can bring into their lives.
If you have a friendly dog and want to volunteer for this program, or if you know of any school or hospital or old age home who will benefit from this program, please fill this form