By: Karyn Munford (GDB Dog Placement Coordinator - Oregon)
In the summer of 2013, Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB) launched an exciting program in partnership with Dove Lewis for screening, evaluating and coordinating Portland area pet assisted therapy teams. Headed by Deana Allen at GDB and Kathy Loter at Dove Lewis, Portland Area Canine Therapy Teams (PACTT) fills a much needed void in assessing and coordinating teams. Also, PACTT is exclusive to GDB dogs. Deana said that GDB dogs are “tailor made” for therapy due to their training, socialization and breeding. The partnership consists of Deana and GDB overseeing the evaluation and assessment end, while Kathy coordinates the therapy teams through Dove Lewis. The process has three phases: the handler workshop, the assessment of skills for certification (both at GDB) and if the team passes, attendance in an orientation at Dove Lewis.
To start, a potential team will contact Deana to notify intent to use a career change dog or retired guide as a therapy dog. Then, Deana will send the applicant prescreen forms and schedule a date for an interview. She asks that potential teams be together at least four months, obtain a vet health exam and agree to program criteria and requirements as they are acting as representatives of both GDB and Dove Lewis.
As adoption counselor for GDB's Oregon Dog Placement department, I have always been in awe of the positive effect therapy dogs can bring to the community. Follow me in the upcoming blogs, as I take you, along with my cc dog, Ceili, through the fun and easy assessment, evaluation process and orientation into the rewarding world of Pet Assisted Therapy.