For Patients and Families
Pawprints Program - Considerations Before You Apply
Participation in Pawprints involves a significant investment of time and effort on the part of all involved - volunteers, therapy dog evaluators, and Children's staff. We believe, however, that the potential benefits and joy that dog visitation may offer to the children and their families are well worth the effort by staff and participating dog owners. When considering whether to apply, please carefully review the Pawprints Volunteer Guide and the Volunteer Services guidelines and then carefully consider the following issues.
Time commitments include Pawprints screening, orientation, dog preparation time (grooming bathing, etc.), travel, and patient visits. All Pawprints volunteers are asked to commit to two visits per month for a minimum of one year. Pawprints Program commitments include following all Pawprints guidelines and requirements, such as behavioral and laboratory screening and primary canine health care. After reviewing all of the materials, ask yourself if you can commit to Pawprints without undue burden on your resources and schedule.
Service to others
Due to the serious nature of the conditions of the children we care for, volunteering at Boston Children's Hospital is emotionally complex. It is especially important for Pawprints volunteers to be able to deal effectively with an emotionally complex environment since the owner's stress may cause the dog to become stressed. Successful volunteers are motivated to help children and families within the framework of their role; they have an ability to separate their own needs from those of the patients and families because their primary goal is to serve others. Spend time considering your motivation for volunteering and how realistic your goals are.
A therapy dog must feel comfortable and be confident in a variety of environments and situations, and not just at home or at a favorite dog spot. For a dog to be well socialized, he/she must be taken to many places in order to have the opportunity to learn. A successful therapy dog typically has had many experiences outside his/her home environment. To determine if your dog is well socialized, review your dog's history of going to new places along with his/her reactions.
A therapy dog must have a stable, steady temperament regardless of the circumstances. Pawprints dogs must maintain a strong motivation to visit even with individuals who may inadvertently handle them roughly because of their disabilities. Pawprints dogs must be comfortable with people of all ages, from toddlers to the elderly, all ethnicities, and all abilities (e.g. wheelchair uses, blind, deaf).
Control over dog
Therapy dogs must be easily under their owners' control at all times. They must demonstrate impeccable visiting manners - there must be no barking, jumping up, or hard tugging on leashes. Pawprints dogs must respond willingly to commands given by their owners regardless of the circumstances.
Since both the dog and the owner have tasks to perform during a visit, they must be able to work as a team in order for the visit to smoothly. Teamwork extends beyond basic obedience commands - it includes your relationship, your communication with each other, and how you treat your dog as a partner with his/her own needs and preferences.