This past weekend was the annual meeting and holiday brunch for the animal assisted therapy (“AAT”) group with which I volunteer. Every year I am struck by the number of hours people commit to volunteering and the diverse places that they go. Like all AAT Groups, we go to a lot of hospitals, nursing homes, and rehab facilities. However. we do so much more. Here is just a sampling:
A lot of members love the R.E.A.D. program. The Reading Education Assistance Dog program uses therapy dogs to help children improve their reading skills and to learn to love books and reading by reading out loud to dogs. These programs are held in schools or libraries. The right dog can impact a child for life.
We try and do monthly visits at a home for women with developmental disabilities. When we visit with the dogs, we meet with all the ladies in a group and try to get them to visit with the dogs one on one. Of course, that is not how it usually works out, and we often have several super enthusiastic residents trying to pet the dogs at the same time. It is always great to see the happiness our dogs generate.
At least one of our members volunteers at a group home. The group home has residents from ages 4-12, and the homes pairs a child up with a dog and handler. This is a long-term commitment – the dog and handler are expected to visit as long as the child stays at the home. Not only does the child learn dog skills, they also build a strong bond with the dog’s human.
Here’s my suggestion to you — make an early New Year’s resolution and plan to do some volunteering in 2014, whether it be dog related or not. You will get back so much more than you give.