Spartanburg Methodist College’s Psi Beta chapter, the national Psychology honor society, hosted the Spartanburg Chapter of Therapy Dog International on Thursday, November 20 in the Davis Mission Chapel.
Founded in 1976 in New Jersey, Therapy Dogs International is a volunteer organization dedicated to regulating, testing and registration of therapy dogs and their volunteer handlers for the purpose of visiting nursing homes, hospitals, other institutions and wherever else therapy dogs are needed. TDI registers all breeds of dogs. Some dogs have pedigrees, while others have been adopted from local shelters or are rescue dogs. In 2012, an estimated 24,750 dog/handler teams were registered with TDI.
To belong to Therapy Dogs International, dogs must be at least one year old and have a sound temperament. All dogs must be tested and evaluated by a Certified TDI Evaluator and must pass a TDI temperament evaluation for suitability to become a Therapy Dog. The test will also include the evaluation of the dog’s behavior around people with the use of some type of service equipment (wheelchairs, crutches, etc.).
Ms. Peggy Crawford, a licensed trainer and evaluator for Therapy Dogs, and the Director of the Spartanburg Chapter, shared her personal story of working in the Chicago medical field for over thirty years during which time she first became involved with Therapy Dogs.
The use of canines to help mankind is known throughout the world. They have been used for guarding flocks, tracking, hunting, search and rescue, leading the blind, and in assisting the deaf and physically challenged. The bond between dog and man dates back to early history, but it was not until recently that a correlation was acknowledged between this bond and the emotional health of humans. Crawford shared that “studies have shown that a person holding or petting an animal will cause a lowering of blood pressure, the release of strain and tension, and can draw out a person from loneliness and depression.”
SMC students greatly appreciated the opportunity to learn about this volunteer organization, but they especially appreciated the opportunity to interact and experience the many hands-on benefits of the therapy dogs that were part of the presentation.