You may be wondering where your generous donations go. Today, I’d like to share with you an overview of our programs—the core of our services which run year-round. Our service model is based around three main groups of participants, and to reach them, we partner with some of Chicago’s most trusted institutions to deliver these services.
Today, I’d like to tell you about some of the truly amazing therapy dogs who deliver Canine Therapy Corps’ services. Without them, we couldn’t do what we do! Each Canine Therapy Corps therapy dog is amazing in their own way, but some of them have had to overcome quite a lot on their path to becoming a therapy dog. Their difficulties in life remind others that their own issues can be overcome – if the therapy dog could do it, so can you!
This very personal edition focuses on Canine Therapy Corps' program at Haymarket Center, one that all three of my therapy dogs (Scotch, Rou, and Swindle), my husband Louie, and I have volunteered in over the years. Haymarket Center offers comprehensive behavioral health solutions to aid people with substance abuse disorders. Tonight at 9:00 p.m., Canine Therapy Corps’ work at Haymarket Center will be featured in the documentary “What You Do Matters,” which will debut on PBS (click here to watch online).
On December 18, 2016, Canine Therapy Corps will celebrate 25 years delivering goal-directed, interactive, canine-assisted therapy. During that time, we have proudly served an estimated 75,000 people. Thanks to our generous volunteers, incredible therapy dogs, knowledgeable program leaders, and open-minded facility partners, the hearts and souls of our organization, for allowing us to achieve that level of service. Along with our donors, they are the reason we now serve approximately 6,000 individuals per year – people with painful physical disabilities and debilitating conditions, veterans persevering over mental health issues, at-risk youth, children with autism, and those recovering from sexual abuse, among others.
The first time we saw Rou, we were so nervous, and our daughter was so scared. But, we quickly learned that Rou is a very good dog, and that we’d be able to take things at our daughter’s pace, working our way up as she became more confident. During that first session, Rou was in a different room behind a glass wall. He alternated between lying down quietly and performing some tricks. My daughter could see him, but the glass barrier made her feel safer. At first, we’d just have her walk past the glass. Then, we worked up to her staying near the glass for longer and longer periods of time, and eventually, we got rid of the barrier altogether. My daughter is a big fan of the movie Frozen. So, to help extend the amount of time she was near Rou, he would hold signs in his mouth with quotes and characters from the movie on them. As my daughter read the signs, she’d get closer and stay closer to him without even realizing it.
For medical students like me, school is a challenging experience. At Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, the expectations are high and the workload is at times overwhelming. For example, my recent exams were three hours long and consisted of over 120 questions. They take place on Mondays, and class starts right back up again on Tuesday morning. There’s just no way to not internalize the stress when so much is expected of you, and I have struggled with that stress myself. Many of my classmates have as well. We all try to deal with stress and anxiety on our own, with varying levels of success.
We’re a month into the New Year, which means that many of our animal-assisted therapy programs around the city recently kicked off their first 2015 sessions. One of those programs was our psychosocial program at Jesse Brown VA Medical Center. This program assists veterans being treated for a myriad of mental illnesses, including PTSD. I’d like to share a touching story from that program with you today.
We are thrilled to share with you the news that an article written by Canine Therapy Corps’ Executive Director, Callie Cozzolino, and Evaluation Volunteer, Melissa Kelly, has been published in Contemporary Justice Review: Issues in Criminal, Social, and Restorative Justice! The article, entitled “Helping at-risk youth overcome trauma and substance abuse through animal-assisted therapy,” details how animal-assisted therapy empowers youths to move past traumatic experiences through a structured dog handling curriculum.
When the therapy dog, Rudy, and his handler, Gayle, finally arrived, it was the first smile I’d seen from Carter in a long time. I still get choked up thinking about it. She was thrilled to be near a dog again after so long in hospital rooms. I told Gayle that Carter really needed to get walking again, so she and Rudy took a lap around the hallway. As the two of them walked past the other rooms, everyone wanted to come out and pet Rudy. Even the nurses, with a huge workload and a lot of stress, would smile and drop their shoulders at the sight of Rudy. He not only brought joy and healing to Carter, but to every single person who saw him.