HOPKINS COUNTY, Ky. (6/5/13) – After being diagnosed with cancer back in 2000 and having three reoccurrences, Terri Gates, Registered Dog Therapy Team decided after her fourth diagnosis she would start a dog therapy service.
In 2006, Terri had surgery for a rare thyroid cancer at UK. After her surgery she had a hard treatment of radiation which burned her esophagus and she began to dwindle in weight. “If it wasn’t for Brody, I wouldn’t have been able to get up off the couch and have any form of stability,” expressed Gates. “I have a picture of me, and Brody lying with me on bed after I had my radiation. He would not leave my side. This was the night before I decided to make him a therapy dog.”
After weeks of recovery, and finally feeling up for the challenge, Terri decided to make Brody into a therapy dog.
In 2008, Terri and Brody joined a dog therapy organization and were invited to visit schools. At one school in particular, Terri had the opportunity to speak in front of students about her cancer and how Brody has helped her during her healing process. “I remember there was a little kid who didn’t know anybody who survived cancer. A lot of little kids are like that. I felt like I was giving them hope, that people with a rare cancer can still survive,” stated Gates. Terri and Brody were then invited to go to the high schools, fire stations and nursing homes.
In June of 2012, Terri and her family moved to Kentucky from Kansas after her husband, Tim Gates, accepted the JROTC teaching position at North Hopkins High School here in Madisonville.
Shortly after their arrival here in Kentucky, Terri and Brody made their way to the Veterans Center in Hanson, Brighton Cornerstone Health Care and the Lions Club to visit and share their story. “I really enjoy going to the Veterans Center because my husband is a veteran. I think Brody makes them feel better. I know he does. Like some of the veterans, the ones that can’t move a lot, they are able to run their fingers in his hair and just from their facial expression. You can tell it makes them happy and comforts them,” stated Gates. “There are some days I will go in without Brody and the first thing any of them ask is where Brody is.”
Dog Therapy is used to help individuals feel less lonely and less depressed. Dog visits can provide a welcome change in one’s routine or a renewal of old friendships. Individuals become more responsive before and after dog visits. A visit can also offer entertainment or a welcome distraction from pain and infirmity. Some individuals often talk to the dogs, sharing their thoughts and feelings. It has been known that stroking a dog or a cat can lower blood pressure and the use of hands and arms, stretching and turning also gives them exercise. These visits make it easier for two strangers to talk. It gives a common interest and provides a focus for conversation. Many people who live in nursing homes, hospitals, and assisted living homes had to give up their pets and miss the casual acceptance their pet would have given them. A dog doesn’t pay attention to age or physical ability but has the ability to accept individuals for who they are. The benefits of dog therapy can continue after the visits. Visits can leave behind memories not only from the visit but from past experiences as well. It offers something people can share.
“I really think it’s important to have therapy dogs, I know what Brody has done for me emotionally and I have seen what it does to other people old and young,” Gates expressed.
In order for Brody to become a therapy dog he had to be at least a year old and well-behaved. He also had to have the ability to know the basic commands such as; sit, stay, and heel. He also had to be able to handle loud noises. “I personally feel they need to be a little older. Brody was four when he started and he’s even better now,” stated Gates. “He’s more disciplined now.”
Depending on which organization you go with, all dogs have to have their rabies shots and a fecal test done to make sure they aren’t carrying any parasites that can be transferred to humans. They have to be able to pass an evaluation the organization provides. The organization wants to make sure that a dog isn’t going to bark at loud noises or be aggressive towards people. They look for dogs that can walk up in any situation and remain calm and obedient. They want the dogs to be friendly and to adapt to situations. They want a dog people won’t be afraid of petting.
Scenarios are setup with walkers and wheelchairs and people screaming and throwing things. “When they did Brody’s evaluation, he never once turned his head. He never got startled, nor did he bark,” Gates stated.
“I would like to have more people get involved with dog therapy. So many people out there need it,” Gates expressed.
You can also visit http://www.therapydogs.com/index.aspx, which is the site of the organization Terri is registered through.
Photos Provided by Amber Mena
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