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Turning a love of dogs into helping others

March 30, 2020

Mammoth School High School Counselor and dog lover Kim Ragsdale has always had a dog and is now venturing into the territory of being part of a therapy dog team.

Renley, Ragsdale’s young goldendoodle recently graduated from the therapy dog in-class training class Love on a Lease program taught by Cate Jaus and Shelly Law, of Complete Canine Academy in West Plains.

Renley is AKC Good Citizen trained and certified. Ragsdale stated this is the first step in becoming a therapy dog.

“To be a therapy dog, it’s very important that the dog is not aggressive, listens to commands and is able to behave. She does the basic commands of sit, lay down, stay and she can ‘fist bump.’ She also knows how to ‘tuck’ to get out of the way if in a hallway and there is something coming in her direction,” said Ragsdale.

Before Ragsdale and Renley could be granted badges as a therapy team, they have to complete 10 hours of observation by their trainers.

“During these observations, they will watch how Renley reacts to residents at the nursing home, making sure she is not intimidated by the surroundings, is gentle, obeys commands, etc. There is a whole list of things she and I both have to meet. Renley’s worst behavior is that she gets too excited when she sees people and she is constantly wanting them to ‘hold her hand/paw.’ She LOVES meeting people!”

After attending a couple of different meetings, meeting two different therapy dogs and learning about the benefit of having one, Ragsdale was inspired to become part of a therapy team.

“Therapy animals are known to calm, destress and give unconditional love. I see this as being something students would benefit from especially in society today. Students are faced with so much more than I was 30 years ago. If Renley can help just a little, then she has done her job. Some schools have younger students read to therapy dogs in order to help build up their confidence in that skill. So, I’m hoping she will get approved to come to the school at least part-time. I would be her handler and she would go with me throughout the campus, and possibly attend guidance lessons in the elementary school,” said Ragsdale, hopeful Renley will be approved to do so.

Benefits of therapy dogs are also being considered with Ozarks Medical Center expressing interest in them visiting patients.

Concerns due to coronavirus COVID-19 therapy dogs and their handlers window visited at local nursing homes when possible. On Tuesday, March 17, Ragsdale and Renley, along with Cate Jaus and Shelly Law and other therapy teams, visited NHC in West Plains to wave at residents through the windows.

“Since the residents are not allowed visitors at this time, at least having furry visitors at the window is bringing smiles to their faces. The residents LOVED the visit! One lady, we were told, waited for 45 minutes at her window until we all arrived. She was very excited to see the dogs! Cate and Shelly will be coordinating more window visits at other nursing homes in the future and anyone with a dog can come on these visits since we are outside,” said Ragsdale.

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