The Therapy Dog Program provided by St. John Ambulance has been a positive and uplifting experience for all those involved for over 20 years now. Therapy Dogs and their owners typically visit seniors homes, hospitals, and university campuses. The Therapy Dog provides comfort to those who need it the most, the elderly, sick and the mentally stressed.
Therefore, Northern Strands was happy to sponsor Mackenzie Clarke and her Golden Retriever Nika, in their quest to become a Therapy Dog Team. There is more to the process than one might think. St. John's Ambulance has a stringent qualification process to becoming a Therapy Dog Team. Not every dog is guaranteed to make the cut.
Dogs must be
- Accepting of a friendly stranger.
- Sit calmly for petting.
- Walk on a loose leash.
- Walk through a crowd (including wheelchairs)
- Sit on command/staying in place.
- React well to another dog or to distractions (noise, jogger, etc).
Luckily, Mackenzie and Nika were up to the challenge! With Nika being well trained and of good temperament, they passed.
The next step of the process was to find placement for Mackenzie and Nika. At first it was suggested they try the U of S and help relieve student stress. Not a bad idea, yet Mackenzie had an alternative location in mind. A place where she believed her and Nika could have the biggest impact on the residents. Mackenzie believed the Sherbrooke Care Home to be that place. The residents would greatly appreciate the comfort and friendliness of Nika. In fact, Mackenzie and Nika would end up making multiple visits to Sherbrooke. With those visits focusing on those with metal disabilities. When we asked Mackenzie, "How did the residents of Sherbrooke respond to Nika?" She stated with a big smile on her face, "They really liked her and I could tell it made them happy that she was there."
Northern Strands would like to commend Mackenzie and her dog Nika in their efforts to improve the lives of others. Thank you from all of us at Northern Stands.
If you would like to learn more about the Therapy Dog program please visit http://www.sja.ca/English/Community-Services/Pages/Therapy%20Dog%20Services/default.aspx
Mackenzie and Therapy Dog Nika shown in photo below