can just wander about in hospitals?" That's probably
what skeptics think. Maybe you've tried to sneak your
precious doggie in with you on a hospital visit. However,
I bet none of you have seen anyone walk a dog in a hospital,
without any shame or embarrassment. Not only do the
dogs walk about as they like, they treat patients just
as doctors do.
In the past this might have seemed ridiculous or unbelievable.
Now, however, a group of dedicated people is trying
to bring this to reality. Their name is Taiwan Dr. Dog
and they have an organization called Formosa Animal-Assisted
Activity & Therapy Association.
The group's director, Ms. Chen Shio-yi, has a compassion
for stray dogs and life. Because of this, she has been
able to come this far down an arduous path, and still
keep going without complaint.
The Dr. Dog program is made up of owners and their dogs.
Teams set off on Saturdays at 6 am; each service round
lasts an hour. The services include bonding time between
the dogs and their patients, allowing the patient an
opportunity to love and care.
Sometimes patients are allowed to play catch-and-retrieve
with the dogs. Here, when the dogs are the doctors,
the owners become the assistants. The owners must watch
out for both the dog and the patient and guide the two
in their interaction.
Not all dogs are eligible to become doctors. A qualified
dog must be healthy, kind, and have a liking for human
interaction. If you think your dog fits the qualifications,
you can apply for Dr. Dog's training sessions. Age and
breed are not important. Chen says: "Training sessions
last for 20 weeks. The sessions are split into three
levels--beginner, intermediate, and advanced. The owners
must pass the exam along with their dogs in order to
become a doctor."
Some doubt that doggie therapists work. Because of this,
Dr. Dog has partnered with the National Taipei College
of Nursing for research. So far, results indicate that
interaction between dogs and humans (of all ages) does
have positive effects.
Dr. Dog holds training sessions in Taipei, Taichung
and Kaohsiung. For details, see http://twdogdr.groups.com.tw