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therapy dogs online

April 29, 2020

It’s not just people who have had to change the way they work during the coronavirus pandemic. It’s therapy dogs too.

DoveLewis has more than 80 therapy dog teams that are usually providing comfort to people in hospitals and nursing homes. Now they are stuck at home.

“It’s so frustrating because this is the time when people could really use the dogs,” explained Kathy Loter, program manager of DoveLewis K9 Therapy Team. “We are normally very busy, but then all of a sudden in one day it all stops. It’s just, OK, well, what do we do? And how long is this going to last, and as we can see, it is going to last for a long while.”

With so much uncertainty, the teams helped launch online programs to connect with people who are stuck in their homes.

Now, every day between 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. a therapy dog team goes on Facebook Live.

“The dog lays there, could be chewing on a bone or whatever, but kids read to the dog from their homes so they can pop in at any time. We have gotten great feedback on that program. We are getting kids from as far away as Massachusetts for that program.”

The other program is more interactive and takes place on Zoom. There, children and their parents can register to read to a dog with two to four other children. They can also talk to the handler and ask them questions about the dog.

“It is so adorable,” said Loter with a smile. “We had one child who is too young to read, so she made up a story about a pineapple. We are reaching all ages.”

The programs have been so successful, staff from DoveLewis say the programs will likely continue even after the pandemic.

“Our teams love giving back to their community. To be able to help them do that still is its pretty valuable. It’s a great experience,” said Loter.

Valuable not just for them, but for those they connect with as well. Loter shared a poem with KATU that was written by a young student who participated in the program.

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