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Using Therapy Dogs for Health and Wellness

Show Summary - June 29, 2009


Sharon welcomed the listeners and talked about the importance of water in life and life in water. She said that it is imperative for everyone to realize the importance of water, to drink plenty of water and to carry water with them if they are unsure of a water source. Dehydration, or lack of water, is out of control in our world and causes or contributes to ailments from allergies to obesity.

Guest: Eileen Tonick

Eileen Tonick(Queen Creek, AZ), writer and dog trainer, "Therapy Dogs for Recovery, Crisis and Hospice."

Eileen Tonick is author of All Dogs Are Angels at Heart (Authorhouse, January, 2008). She owns a dog day care and training kennel in Arizona where her objective is to allow dogs to run free and "become dogs again."

She became involved in dog training when she noticed that a high percentage of dogs being euthanized were not well trained, or had been trained to be aggressive. Most dog owners do not seek professional training help.

Mrs. Tonick is a strong advocate of the value of canine companionship to humans. She believes dogs can be important to children in learning responsibility and unconditional love and she believes there are many other groups, such as the chronically ill, the terminally ill, the emotionally ill and the handicapped, that could benefit from being around dogs. She has worked extensively with dogs for the blind and is proud that 100% of her dogs passed while the average is 25%.

She also worked with a local hospice in which she brought dogs around regularly for the patients to interact with. This proved very beneficial in directing the patients' attention away from their immediate problems in a way that allowed them to nurture and love.

A few hospitals have recently been opening up to these kinds of programs despite the sanitation issues. Even heavily medicated, semi-comatose patients seemed to benefit from the contact (the handlers also turned on music, turned down the lights and read to or massaged the patients).

Mrs. Tonick spoke of an organization that brings dogs to traumatized children in crisis units, called "Gabriel's Angels" (Gabriel was a particularly affectionate dog). Eventually, the children start hugging and petting the dogs and learning to love them. Since animal abuse is an early symptom of violent emotional disorders in children, helping them appropriately relate to and empathize with animals can be very beneficial.

Mrs.Tonick has also been involved in helping to secure liability insurance for workers in these programs and in training dog handlers to work in the programs.

Guide dogs for the blind were originally all German shepherds but are now mostly Labs and golden retrievers. The program originated after WWII with returning veterans. Guide dogs cost about $50,000 to raise and train but are free to the recipient.

For more information, go to or look up "service dogs."

Categories: Alternative medicine and therapies, health and wellness, 2009