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Canalside Chronicles

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Canalside Chronicles

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Canalside Chronicles

A second chance
May 7, 2024

Help for a ‘ruff’ day

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By: Emily Rose

Benjamin the Therapy Dog (Photo/Emily Rose)

For anyone who loves animals – the benefits are obvious. They love you unconditionally, they lift your spirits, and they can turn a bad day into a good one.

Statistics show that 75% of pet owners say their mental health improved because of their animals. This has led to an increase in therapy animals in recent years.

The United States has more than 50,000 service animals that help with physical and mental ailments.  

According to the Alliance of Therapy Dogs, there are five key benefits to having a therapy dog:

  • Physical benefits
  • Social benefits
  • Cognitive benefits
  • Emotional benefits
  • Mental health benefits
Therapy Dog Jonah at SUNY Brockport with Students (Photo/SUNY Brockport Instagram)

A local company involved with therapy dogs is RocDog in Rochester. Paul Anthony and Suzan Jaeckle both work with RocDog.

Anthony has been working with therapy dogs for around two years and has three dogs. Jaeckle has been working with therapy dogs for a year and had one dog. 

“We say and tell everybody that’s their job because they’ll ask what is the job of a therapy dog. People will give you lots of things, whether we are in a hospital, a senior home, a school, a college, just to get a smile,” Anthony said.

SUNY Brockport students at RocDog event (Photo/SUNY Brockport Instagram)

Research has shown that the presence of a beloved pet or therapy animal can help a person control daily anxiety, regulate emotional arousal, and improve mood. Since therapy dogs are trained to be attentive to a person’s needs and offer unconditional love, they can often stabilize intense emotions.

“We see people who are in psychiatric units, so people who are having some difficulties in life and we can just be that half hour, 45 minutes, or an hour where you know instead of focusing on all this gunk in your life you just focus on a dog,” Anthony said.

Jaeckle’s dog Benjamin loves going to school.

“I went to a high school class, where the kids couldn’t be in class. They just had a circle around him [Benjamin] and he was laying down. One girl looks and says, ‘look how calm we all are now’ and they were,” Jaeckle said.

Benjamin with his owner Suzan Jaeckle (Photo/Emily Rose)

These therapy dogs are not only beneficial to those who are struggling with mental health issues, but they also impact their owners as well.

“It was so nice to see it, it does a lot for us too. The people who bring therapy dogs around do it because we love it,” Jaeckle said.

When going to train dogs as therapy animals, all they have do is take a training class.

“They go to a class, usually have standard obedience, and then they go to a class that’s a canine good citizen class, and they add a few things like being around wheelchairs, walkers, loud noises. If they are not aggressive, they are going to pass,” Jaeckle said.

The eight-week class is $160 and trains both the dog and owner.

Once a dog and its owner are trained they can join an organization like RocDog.

“Normally once you train a dog to be a therapy dog, you want to go out in public, like coming here [SUNY Brockport] you normally then become part of a group. There are both local and national groups,” Anthony said.

Jonah the Therapy Dog (Photo/SUNY Brockport Instagram)

RocDog is a non-profit organization focusing on Therapy Dog Services. It is the biggest organization of its type in the area.  

RocDog is a valuable resource for the community to help support local places with mental health issues in the area while also supporting a local organization.

For animal lovers, the benefits are obvious. For those dealing with mental health issues, the benefits are even more obvious.

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