High demand for canine-assisted therapy

Since 1991, Canine Therapy Corps has certified dogs to provide therapy at different hospitals and rehabilitation facilities. Their role is to give people emotional and physical support that will enable them to live life to the fullest regardless of their abilities.

Prada, Daisy, Bertha, Dubs and Emma are proudly sitting in the courtyard of Chicago's Swedish Covenant Hospital. In addition to providing therapy, they also have their own personal crowd-pleaser "tricks."

To qualify for Canine's programs, dogs are required to have a lot of good social and behavior skills, says board member Lisa Wiersma.

"It can be a little bit intimidating," said Wiersma. "We're just testing to make sure their dogs have the right temperaments to be in the facilities that we work in."

Canine does not train dogs for therapy.

"The dogs, the owners are responsible to come to our test with their dogs having gone through the obedience class already, but we do have orientation and training for new volunteers so they'll go to a couple of sessions of our programs before they start in right away," said Wiersma.

Do the dogs benefit? Jamie Damato, animal trainer, says the experiences of working with people is rewarding for dogs.

"I think when their in a situation and when everyone is smiling and there's joy, there's an intrinsic reward there," said Damato.

And for the owners.

"It's really an opportunity to share your dog. When you love your dog and you know how much the dog inspires you, you to want to do other things," said Wiersma.

Animal-assisted therapy programs are in demand. To get involved with Canine Therapy Corps, they have some events coming up this month. For more information go to their web site at www.caninetherapycorps.org or call (773) 404-6467.

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