Sophie is an AKC-registered Smooth Fox Terrier. She is 5 years old, stands 15 inches high, and weighs approximately 18 pounds. Sophie has been working as a therapy dog since March 2011, when she became Alfred University Wellness Center’s second on-site therapy dog. The AU Wellness Center had had a therapy dog on site since 2009, when Sophie’s handler, Sarah Covell, completed training and registration for her first TDI dog, Tess.
Sophie completed her training and passed her AKC Canine Good Citizen and Therapy Dog International tests at the Dog Training Center of Rochester New York. Sophie is registered with Therapy Dogs International (TDI®), an organization founded in 1976 and dedicated to regulating, testing and registering therapy dogs and their volunteer handlers.
To belong to Therapy Dogs International (TDI®) dogs must be tested and evaluated by a Certified TDI Evaluator. A dog must be a minimum of one (1) year of age and have a sound temperament. Each dog must pass a temperament evaluation, which includes the American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen Test. The test also includes the evaluation of the dog’s behavior around people with the use of some type of service equipment (wheelchairs, crutches, etc.). TDI also requires an annual Health Record Form to be completed and signed by a licensed veterinarian. This health form certifies Sophie to be free of parasites or other communicable diseases.
Animal-assisted therapy can be beneficial to the counseling process. The presence of the animal can facilitate a trust-building bond between the counselor and client. The presence of an animal has also been found to lower anxiety and to motivate participation in counseling interactions. The animal's warm and playful presence can be comforting, and interacting with the animal is entertaining and fun.
For some students, talking to the animal while the counselor listens is easier than talking to the counselor, particularly for the more difficult issues. Also, animals often help clients focus on an issue as they interact with the animal. The animal may help the client get in touch with feelings. Sharing these feelings with or about the animal can initiate the emotional sharing process with the counselor. For the client, the animal is seen as a friend and ally, thus presenting a safe atmosphere for sharing. The animal offers nurturance through a presentation of unconditional acceptance and interaction. The experience of a client interacting with an animal can provide knowledge about boundaries and limit setting by observing and imitating the counselor-animal interactions.
Note: Some of the above information was excerpted from the following article: