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Newton Pups

May 22, 2020

Currently on furlough due to COVID-19, Annie, Piper and Taco are chomping at the bit to return to their volunteer work.

The three tiny Papillons, owned by resident Jo-Edith Heffron, miss working with the patients at Good Shepherd Continuing Care and seem eager to return.

Heffron explained more about how the trio became therapy dogs and their plans for the future.

When did the trio become therapy dogs? Can you tell readers more about what they do as part of their volunteer work?

I have been involved in pet therapy (formerly animal assisted therapy) since 1990. Their “work” involves companionship – and providing the tactile sensory feelings that animals nurture. They also, in many instances, bring back pleasant memories to patients.

When each dog was acquired they began to train to become therapy dogs. They start with basic obedience before therapy training can begin. Not all dogs like this work and that should be determined before proceeding further.

What inspired you to have the trio begin to work as therapy dogs?

I started in therapy work to give something back. As an animal person, I have seen the benefits that this work does.

During this pandemic more people have adopted animals for companionship and for the love that they provide – unconditionally [with] no strings attached.

When did the dogs start working at Good Shepherd Continuing Care in Newton and when did they have to stop due to COVID-19? Have you seen evidence in their behavior that they miss going out to socialize with the people there?

We started working at Good Shepherd in March 2017 and visited our first client in April 2017. Due to COVID-19, our last direct visit was March 4, 2020.

I think that the trio miss their weekly visits and all of the happiness that surround them.

Once it is safe, do you intend to have the dogs return to work at Good Shepherd? What do you think the dogs mean to the people there?

Once we get the OK I am sure that we will be up and running again. I hope that everyone has stayed well during this siege.

Pet therapy visits are by request and just to see the clients “light up” when they see and pat the dogs makes it a wonderful experience.

We can only visit with one dog at a time so the girls are rotated in their visits.

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