At Fur and Feather Works, we are proud to support students with an interest in Therapy Dog work in pursuing this noble goal. Our Therapy Dog and Handler class helps dogs take the leap from well-trained pets to registered therapy dogs.
Is therapy work for you and your dog? We share Therapy Dog & Handler Spotlights to help you decide. In this Spotlight, get to know Fur and Feather Works’ owner, Joanna Moritz, and her 8-year-old Australian Shepherd and registered Therapy Dog, Raven.
Joanna, what do you enjoy about doing therapy dog work? I like helping people who need it most and I fully understand the joy and peace that petting a nice dog can bring. If I were stuck in the hospital away from my pets, or going through a really rough patch in my life, I would LOVE a therapy dog visit. I can imagine others feel the same way. We literally can’t go one shift at Renown without someone saying “you made my day!” and you can tell by the way they say it that they’re not exaggerating.
What kind of places do you visit? Raven and I have a weekly assignment at Renown Regional, at the Starbucks in the Sierra tower, where she greets medical staff and patients. When I can fit it into my schedule, we also visit the Child Advocacy Center, the 911 Dispatch center, and UNR.
What was the hardest part of training Raven for this work? Raven has some environmental sensitivities that we’ve worked hard on, and I remain conscious of them on our visits to make sure she’s having a good time. She doesn’t like shiny, slippery floors; or big, high-ceilinged, echo-y places; and she hates elevators. This means I pick and choose where she goes so she’s happy in her job, and we always take the stairs.
What advice would you give someone interested in doing therapy dog work with their dog or puppy? Be patient. Most dogs don’t make good therapy dogs until they’re at least three years old or so, because young dogs are just so full of spunk and vigor. Also, know your dog. Don’t be afraid to ask for assignments that fit their personality, and reject ones they don’t enjoy. Everyone will understand.
Therapy Dog and Handler class is only available a few times per year, and it can fill quickly. Get on the wait list for the next offering of this class by emailing [email protected] to express your interest!