Recently one of our clients and her dog became PALS volunteers, and she wanted to share their story with our readers who may not know exactly what PALS is, or have questions about becoming PALS volunteers. We want to thank Carla Hogan and her dog Wynnstan for taking the time to share their inspiring story!
PALS is a non-profit, registered, charitable organization located in Calgary, Alberta, dedicated to enhancing the quality of life of individuals through pet therapy. PALS pets include dogs, cats, guinea pigs, rabbits, ferrets and even one horse, and many volunteers. These four-legged therapists respond unconditionally, in a non-judgmental and non-threatening manner, eliciting responses where all else has failed. These animals are family pets carefully screened by professionals as to suitability for the program. – Quoted from the PALS website.
Wynnstan (Sir Wynnstan Churchill), our Pembroke Welsh Corgi, became a member of our family in February 2010. Wynnstan arrived with a very calm disposition, friendly, tolerant, curious, smart and willing to please.
As an employee of a nursing home I would often take Wynnstan to visit after hours, the residents loved it and Wynnstan was conscripted into a world of wheelchairs, crutches, walkers and many new sounds and smells. Another aspect of Wynnstans socialization training was to be introduced to many different situations. We were very fortunate to find a fantastic dog sitter who acquainted Wynnstan to many; other dogs, rabbits, cats and piano students. At home, we often would choose the busiest streets when walking and introduce him to the world of automobiles, motor bikes, trains, baby buggies, skate boards and bicycles.
In the spring of 2013 we applied to become PALS volunteers. We were contacted by PALS stating they were interested in interviewing both Wynnstan and I. After passing the interview we were given a date for Wynnstans screening. In preparation for this, Wynnstan and I worked on his table manners taking food gently and only when told, as well as my command skills, and his listening skills, such as sit, down, and look at me.
A very important part of the screening process is the health of your dog/pet. Up to date health records from your vet must be submitted prior to screening. Your dogs teeth, ears and overall health will be examined during the intake process. Chestermere Veterinary Clinic can provide these exams and records for screening, call 403-272-3573 to book an appointment.
On the day of the screening we were greeted by PALS volunteers and a room full of dogs. You and your pet are being evaluated the minute you walk into the room, so it is important to keep a short leash, find a place to sit, keep your dog calm, and his nose away from the other dogs. PALS dogs are service dogs, so it is required that there be no nose contact or any other contact with the dogs present. Service dogs have a very important job to do and it is crucial for your dog to know when you want him to work and when it is okay to play. A cat was present in the room and later carried past the dogs (they call this the cat scan)! They direct the attention of the dog toward the cat and observe any reaction. Wynnstan looked at the cat and without saying a word said it all with his attitude
yeah thats a cat so what? Wynnstans name was called and we were led into a smaller office. There he was introduced to two PALS volunteers, wheel chairs, crutches, walkers and of course food. He was also subjected to loud noises and observed for his reaction and recovery time. His ears and teeth were checked, as well as being handled and touched on all body parts. Remember to relax, the greatest stressor for your dog is being stressed yourself. At the end of it all, Wynnstan walked proudly out the door with his PALS kerchief on!
Wynnstan and I volunteer at the Peter Lougheed Centre twice per month in the Palliative and Psych Wards. On our first day we were challenged with the revolving door and the elevator. With the PALS volunteers waiting on the other side and of course watching, I tried to enter through a doorway, but I could not get it to open. At that point Wynnstan sat down, looked up at me as if to say we can do this and we did! Talk about the calming behavior
we are so blessed to be able to share this lovely pet in the service to others.
For more information on PALS, to make a donation, or find out about becoming a volunteer, visit http://www.palspets.com/.
If you have any concerns or questions please contact us at Chestermere Veterinary Clinic 403-272-3573, or visit us at http://www.chestermerevet.com.
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