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Wed, Apr 12, 2017 at 05:00 AM

Dogs make great therapists

Not all therapists are the two-legged kind.

Dogs used in pet therapy are specially-skilled to make people feel better.

“Our dogs are so willing to share their unconditional love,” Rosalind Hall told a group of cancer survivors at their monthly luncheon. “They just want to be loved and share their unconditional love. That’s why I do Therapy Dogs.”

Hall, who has shown dogs for 40 years, brought her Australian Shepherd “Pip” to demonstrate the characteristics that make a good therapy dog. Breed doesn’t matter – temperament does, she said. 

The animals need to be under control, willing to walk on a loose lead, be touched by other people and comfortable around walkers and wheelchairs. 

“It’s amazing what they can do,” Hall said. “Aren’t we lucky to have them?”

Hall and Diane Walthall have taken dogs to nursing homes, schools and libraries for nine years with the RSVP program. They test other people’s dogs to determine whether they would be a good addition to the program. 

Walthall said the pets themselves help people with therapy by having them using their arms to reach out to pet them, or bend their backs to rub their heads. 

“Dogs not only give love they are used in so many things,” said Walthall, who lost her beloved dog Demon and is looking for another. 

Animals have a very calming effect on Alzheimer’s patients and nursing home residents.

“Most of the time it works out great,” Walthall said. “They just need to be a well-mannered, well-behaved dog that likes people.”

Marshall Cancer Care Center’s cancer support group called L.I.F.E., which stands for Lean In For Encouragement, meets on the second Tuesday of each month at noon. They are held in the classroom of the Professional Center next door to the Marshall Cancer Care Center, just south of Cracker Barrel in Guntersville. Lunch is provided and there is no charge. A reservation is required, and can be made by calling (256)571-8000.

For more information on the Pet Therapy program call Marshall County RSVP at (256)571-7734.