Thursday, April 28, 2011

Becoming a Delta Society Pet Partners Team

Kendall and I have been a registered Pet Partners team for just over a year now. I don't blog about our volunteer time as a Pet Partners team very much, because it just seems too personal sometimes. Every time we visit, whether it's at a nursing home, an assisted living facility, or at the Read to the Dogs program at the local library, I'm amazed at the response of every person we encounter. People's eyes light up and their faces break into great big smiles at the sight of Kendall coming down the hall proudly wearing her green Delta Society vest. Some of you have asked that I blog about how Kendall and I came to be a Pet Partners team and what goes in to getting registered with the Delta Society.

From the time we picked out Kendall chose us at the breeders I knew that she had a temperament that would lend itself nicely to working with people. She's a happy dog who hasn't met a person she doesn't like. In a gathering of people and dogs, it's the people she'll seek out rather than play with the other dogs. She thinks that every person we meet is going to shower her with attention. We worked hard to socialize her in lots of different environments around lots of different people so that she would not be bothered by things like elevators or men with hats. I once read that your dog should meet 100 different people before they're 100 days old. That can be difficult when you're working with a puppy who really shouldn't be out until the full run of puppy shots are finished, but we were creative. We had people of all ages, including young kids, come over to visit.

The day she chose us

We also spent a lot of time working with her on obedience basics. We went to puppy preschool and worked with her just about every day. She has sit-stay down pat. We're fortunate to have a place where we could take her for supervised small dog play hour. I'm not a big fan of dog parks where you never know what kind of dog (or owner) you're going to encounter.

Kendall and Riley, her brother

There are two things your dog has to have in order to make a good Pet Partners dog - the right temperament and the ability to follow your commands. Your dog has to be under control at all times.

Once Kendall was over 1 year old, I started looking for a program to help move us along the path to allow us to visit in hospitals and nursing homes. I found the AAI program through the Oregon Humane Society. They are an affiliate of the Delta Society. I signed up for their day-long training course and ordered the necessary manual. You have an option of taking the class over the course of a few weeks, taking it in one looooooong day, or taking it as a home-study course if no courses are offered in your area. After we completed the course there was still a lot of work to do.

Every Pet Partners team hopeful needs to go through an extensive evaluation where they evaluate the human and the canine ends of the leash. There's a skills test and an aptitude test. There are even volunteer actors who play the role of clumsy people or people in wheelchairs to see how you and your dog will react. There's no room for error and a kiss from Kendall disqualified us the first time we tested. We were offered the opportunity to retest two months later, so we worked really hard on our skills. We went to the local mall countless times to meet and greet as many people as we could so that we could work on meeting new people without having her jump up on them. I'd like to say that Kendall is good at not jumping 100% of the time, but I'd be lying. I'm just very careful in how I handle her when presented with that situation. We passed the evaluation with no problem the second time around.

Ready to volunteer

The work doesn't stop there, though. I'll blog later about what it takes to get ready for a visit, what happens during our visits, and all of the other wonderful things that go on when volunteering as a Pet Partners team. If you're interested in becoming a team with your dog, you can find out more information on the Delta Society web page.

1 comment:

Prettypics123 said...

Wow Gretchen. I have called the Monterey SPCA many times over the previous four months to get signed up for something similar. And the coordinator of the program and I have never connected. So I have let it slip away. Your post is motivating. I know that Gingee would love to do what Kendall is doing. And I would find the work rewarding also. Not to mention how it can enhance Gingee and my relationship with one another. Thanks for the post. I look forward to learning more.