Sign In

Pet Therapy Teams

July 13, 2020

This weekend there were barks and cheers as Gulfport welcomed six new pet therapy teams.

Saturday, the Visiting Pet Teams of South Mississippi honored its 2020 class of pet graduates. Six canines and their handlers received diplomas and a chew toy for successful completion of their course instruction and their evaluation.

The ceremony was held at Gulfport Memorial Hospital. All human attendees wore masks and were spread six feet apart. While COVID-19 did not prevent the graduation event from happening, it did affect the number of graduates. Visiting Pet Teams of South Mississippi Coordinator Michael Bowin said, “We would’ve had six but we had a couple that dropped out for other reasons. And this is considered that we’ve been basically four months without any evaluations. So this was a very small year for us.”

The Pet Therapy’s team evaluator, Carla Anderson, had some parting words for her pet teams as they embark on a journey she began 10 years ago. “Those new dog handler teams, sometimes I remind them, you know, don’t drop your lead, pay attention to what your dog is doing at all times, and you’re your dog’s advocate. It’s your responsibility to remove your animal from the situation if your animal becomes stressed.”

Anderson says therapy dogs aren’t made, they’re born. A couple of the many traits she says they should have is getting along with children and not backing away from physical touch. “You can train obedience and field and agility, but you can’t train temperament and personality.” The basic duties of a therapy pet, according to the group’s motto, are to enhance lives, reduce loneliness, and create motivation through animal assisted activities and animal assisted therapy. “It’s just all about the dogs. I just joke and say I’m just the driver. They do everything. And they do, they do.”

Register Your Dog

  • Most Recent News

    Former Victoria man’s diabetic alert dog helps him get back to life

    When Luke Hengen’s diabetes worsened in his early twenties, it stripped him of the outdoor activities where the country kid felt at home. Countless wilderness adventures and years of hard-fought football games took a toll on his body, to the point where he could no longer sense when his blood sugar was too high or […]

    Read more

    Students Get Therapy Dog

    When middle school students return to class on Jan. 11, they’ll find a new face at the door: Daisy. Daisy is a therapy dog and the personal pet of Rob Kreger, principal of the Rock L. Butler Middle School. The five-year-old golden retriever is not a school pet or mascot, but rather a working dog […]

    Read more

    Therapy Dogtor

    Last March, Caroline Benzel, a third-year medical student, began to notice the stress and discomfort her nurse friends were feeling from the pressures of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. “[Personal protective equipment] can be really rough on the skin,” Benzel, 31, tells PEOPLE. Benzel and her 3-year-old Rottweiler, Loki (who’s also a therapy dog) hatched a […]

    Read more

    Therapy Dog Pups

    When Stanley the miniature fox terrier’s owner passed away, the little dog started a ‘paw-some’ new role – bringing puppy love to some of the Gold Coast’s oldest residents. After Carinity Cedarbrook Diversional Therapist Julianne Staff adopted Stanley, he began visiting the aged care community at Mudgeeraba as a therapy dog. Therapy dogs help to […]

    Read more

    Puppy Cams

    A nonprofit is providing an unusual form of therapy for those on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic – puppy cams! “You spend five minutes with a puppy and try not to smile,” said registered nurse Robin Lingg Lagrone. Lingg Lagrone says watching little furballs wag their tails and prance on their paws helps […]

    Read more

    Pet Committee

    When Moore County’s school doors were abruptly closed earlier in 2020, two- and four-legged volunteers from the Moore County Citizens’ Pet Responsibility Committee (PRC) were in their 12th year of presenting a six-session Pet Responsibility Education Program for fourth-graders. The PRC quickly shifted gears and placed its program materials online as part of a home […]

    Read more