FYI SOUTH Magazine, December 2004

Love so deep ¡V Taiwan Dr. Dog

Chen Shio-Yi, Director By Bonnie Huang Translated by Teresa Cheng





"Dogs 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