The power of dogs can not be overstated. The Good Dog Foundation has spent 25 years training and certifying dogs to help individuals in schools, hospitals, nursing homes and more. Each year, the organization trains up to 300 dog teams, helping approximately 100,000 people each year by providing Therapy Dog services.
They offer training options and certifications for canines, including crisis response, and professional certifications. At an Elementary School in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood, Martha Gold and her dog Oliver have been helping students in their reading class for four years. “He really is a rock star here. He’s a superstar,” Gold said.
Several students feel the same way about the beloved Labrador. "When I read to Oliver, he’s somebody that actually listens to me," one student said.
Gold said that having Oliver in class is helpful for students because there’s “no judgment,” especially when it comes to reading. She explained, “The kids that feel funny about reading in public or even speaking in public feel good with him.”
Harvey has also been one of the trainees of the organization, along with his owner Nicole Lakin. She thought he would be perfect for the job after seeing him interact with a stranger in the elevator. "He walked up to somebody in a wheelchair and stuck his head up into the guy’s hand so that he could pet him, and I was like, ‘Well that was pretty impressive,’” she recalled.
Another graduate of the program, Laska, now visits the elderly at nursing homes around the area. David, a resident at the New Jewish Home, said that Laska's presence helps improve his health. He told Fryer, “It’s as important to our healing as the medicine I take." Laurie, another resident at the nursing home, called it “Love at first sight," adding, "(It) seems like when you need them, they’re there for you."
A new study has found the dogs can smell when a human is stressed. “While it is likely that in a real-life context dogs are picking up on our stress from a variety of context cues, we have shown using a laboratory study that there is a confirmed odor component that is likely contributing to dogs’ ability to sense when we are stressed,” the study’s first author, animal psychologist Clara Wilson, said via e-mail.
Most recently, the organization organized dogs to visit the teachers, students, and families from the Uvalde area to help them cope with their trauma.
“For younger children, they don’t have the vocabulary to articulate what they’re thinking and what they’re feeling,” said Linda Porter-Wenzlaff, co-director of the CARE Program. “But with a dog, they don’t have to. They can sit and hug a dog or pet a dog or just be alone in that moment with an animal that isn’t looking to them and asking them questions about how they’re feeling or what they saw. They’re just offering that soft, gentle accepting presence.”
All of these dogs are truly making a difference in their community by showing unconditional love to those in need.
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