Caitlin with Ryder, Pat with Mia, Cindy with Zayle and Asher, Kim with Cleveland and Dennis with Abi
Everyone needs a friend to get them through the good times and the rough patches. However, that friend doesn’t necessarily have to be human.
Dogs have long been regarded as “man’s best friend” – a great companion and more recently, therapy dogs. Fido & Friends Assisted Therapy Group believes in the special healing power of furry friends.
Facilitated by Kathy Scagnelli, Fido & Friends Assisted Therapy Group is comprised of 12 volunteers who take their dogs to visit people in nursing homes, hospices and hospitals like Bacharach to provide emotional support, comfort and happiness.
Asher, Ryder, Zay
“The patients are comforted by the dogs. Just by petting them, they can reduce their blood pressure and relieve the stress they may be feeling. The dogs are pretty much here for anyone who needs to smile,” says Kathy.
Different from service dogs, the dogs of Fido & Friends are the personal dogs of people in the group and have been certified as therapy dogs through The Bright and Beautiful Therapy Dogs’ testing site. Kathy’s own dog, Asher, a 4-year-old miniature Australian shepherd is certified.
“I always encourage people who think their dog has the right demeanor to be a therapy dog to go through the testing and certification process,” says Kathy.
The group also makes frequent trips to schools in the area. Children will play and visit with the dogs if they finish their work, or kids in lower-level reading classrooms will read to the dogs during story time.
Asher visits a school.
“The dogs really help decrease the anxiety in kids who have speech or emotional disorders,” says Kathy. “By reading to the dog instead of the classroom, they can focus their attention on the words instead of all the eyes on them.”
As an extra treat for classrooms, the group makes trading cards for the dogs, featuring a picture of them with their likes (peanut butter) and dislikes (overcrowding).
Kathy believes dogs have a sixth sense and gravitate toward people they know need assistance. One moment between Asher and a patient made an impact on her.
“I brought Asher into the room of a stroke victim at Bacharach. He put his feet up on the bed and started licking the man’s hand. I wasn’t sure if that was ok, so I tried to move him, but he insisted. The man’s wife told me that he had lost feeling in that side of his body. She was nearly in tears over the gesture.”
While such visits are emotional, they are also the ones that make Kathy feel good about the work the group is doing. “I really enjoy seeing the smiles on people’s faces. I hope that when I get old someone brings a dog to me in my time of need,” says Kathy.
“Dogs are always happy to see you,” says Kathy. “They don’t judge no matter what physical or mental challenges a person is facing. They’re just happy to be there. My hope is that Fido & Friends provides comfort to those who need one the most.”