Teamwork is a Powerful Force for Good
Healing a Bereft Community
Seventeen lives were tragically lost at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on February 14, 2018, leaving an entire community raw, confused, and grieving.
Within 24 hours, a Tony Stewart Foundation grant partner and its volunteers and therapy dogs began the difficult and heart wrenching tasks of healing their community.
Until that day, Canine Assisted Therapy’s 120 therapy dog teams and its volunteers and staff performed their usual outstanding work, enhancing the lives of children and adults primarily in South Florida by achieving specific physical, cognitive, social, or emotional goals through the use of certified pet therapy teams.
However, in February, Canine Assisted Therapy (CAT) deployed its staff, volunteers and therapy dogs into an entirely new area of service.
Making a Difference
The CAT volunteers and the therapy dogs were an integral part of the various gatherings that resulted from the tragedy. The dogs’ natural healing talents, overseen by trained volunteers, lent themselves to doing and attending the following:
“Thank you. I feel better.”
Canine Assisted Therapy recently shared a moment with the Tony Stewart Foundation that demonstrates how the pet therapy teams worked together when there was a moment of need.
“Last night at the memorial, one of our pet therapy teams noticed a boy sitting on the ground away from everyone else. They approached him and asked if he would like to pet the dog. The volunteer sat on the ground with him and just waited while he petted the dog. Finally, he felt like talking. He told her that he is feeling so sad because he saw two of his friends get shot. The volunteer called another therapy team over and they sat down with the boy, too. After stroking both dogs for about 20 minutes, he smiled and said, “Thank you. I feel better.”
Situations like this young man’s help the Canine Assisted Therapy volunteers recognize the impact they make with their dogs. Grief counselors assigned to each classroom confirmed that the dogs offered the students an alternative and effective way of expressing their grief, angst, and confusion. Students were overheard saying, “I would not have come back to school if it wasn’t for the dogs,” and “Knowing that there would be dogs at school helped me to go back.”
CAT volunteers and staff recently received an email from a student who studies at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. It affirmed that in additional to making a difference in the moment the presence of CAT therapy teams also made a difference in the future. It read:
I'm a survivor of the MSD shooting. I just wanted to say thank you so much for sending the therapy dogs to our school everyday! It really helped me adjust to school and stay calm throughout all that was happening. I was wondering if there is any opportunity to volunteer? I would love to help anyway I can!
CATs Primary Mission
Canine Assisted Therapy responded immediately to the school shooting and yet it’s primary mission for the past decade has been to enhance the lives of children and adults by achieving specific physical, cognitive, or emotional goals through the use of certified pet therapy teams. Pet Therapy Teams work with medically fragile children, children with special needs, pediatric cancer patients, and children undergoing physical therapy.
Pet therapy teams go from bed-to-bed in hospitals and visit physical therapy areas. The dogs become an integral part of the healing process, encouraging smiles, providing immediate comfort, motivating children to initiate physical mobility, and offering a reprieve from needles, medicines, and therapy.
For more information about Canine Assisted Therapy (CAT) visit:
http://catdogs.org | FB @canineassistedtherapy | Instagram @catdogsinc