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               Faithful Paws   at   Bellaire United Methodist Church 
                         ANIMAL ASSISTED THERAPY PROGRAM 
                     GENERAL  INFORMATION
                         Revised January 2015                                                


1.  If you join Faithful Paws, you are required to make at least one monthly visit to at least one of our associated facilities (our for-fun one-time visits are extra and don't count for this), starting as soon as you and your pet get certified with us. If you will not have the time or desire to make at least these monthly visits, you should reconsider getting involved with our group.


2.  Once you have been notified that your paperwork was received and is complete, you will be added to the waiting list, and then notified when you can begin class. Classes are held at the Bellaire United Methodist Church on Tuesday evenings (February - November) from 7:00 pm until about 9:00. From West Loop 610, go east on Bellaire. Turn south onto Newcastle off of Bellaire. The parking lots are on the left, in the back of the church. Park there and lock your car. Do not leave valuables in your car. The church is not responsible for break-ins. Anyone there with a dog on a leash will be happy to show you the way to our classes. Go in the glass double doors facing the back parking lots - the doors closest to Newcastle. Go up the stairs just inside the doors. At the top of the stairs is the room where we meet. Remember that leashes are to be 4-foot or shorter. Be sure to bring a soft dog brush, and your "necessary bag".


3.  During each pet therapy training class, you and your dog will work on basic obedience. Pets can start our class at any age once they have their first rabies shots. They just cannot get certified until they are at least 6 months of age. The sooner training starts, the better, especially for strong breeds like Boxers, Bulldogs, Rotties, Great Danes, and Mastiffs. You will practice commands like ‘Watch Me’ (very important command), ‘Leave It’, ‘Sit’, ‘Down’, ‘Stay’, ‘Come’, and ‘Heel’. You will practice walking near other people and other dogs, and being around many other pets, including cats that may be in class and will occasionally be encountered on visits. You will practice greeting other people with their dogs, and asking if you can pet their dogs. With the other dogs, you will pet, brush, tug on ears and tails, and pick up their feet. Others will do the same to your dog. You can use treats for your dog, and keep a supply in your pocket or fanny pack. Use small, human-grade treats like Cheerios. You will practice being in the center as the other pets and people crowd around you, because we often have to crowd into elevators. You will be exposed to items and noises that may be encountered on a visit (wheel chairs, walkers, loud noises).


4.  All animals must be screened and invited to test and join. After the Director is sure you and your pet have mastered the required skills, we will schedule a date for your test. You will test in a small group at another location. During the test, in addition to the other skills, you will leave the area and leave your dog with someone else for 3 minutes to be sure the dog does not mind being separated from its owner. The list of CGC test items is at the bottom of our "contact us" web page.


5.  After you have passed the certification testing, you can start visiting as soon as you hear from our Manager, usually the next day. You do not need your ID or shirt to start visiting. The team leader on your visits can vouch for you. Our group has visits arranged at nursing homes, hospitals, assisted living and rehab places. Most of our facilities have no special requirements, but some need you to take a TB test, flu shot, attend required orientation, require a certain dress code, require their own ID, or run a background check. Most facilities are for adults, but some are for kids, and some are mixed. Some pair a single animal with a single patient and their therapist for physical therapy. Tricks are not necessary - most of our facilities are happy with a pet that just likes to be petted. The team leader can advise you about parking issues. Also, we are often invited to one-time activities that can be lots of fun, like school visits or special activities. We accept these requests as a treat for our humans who regularly visit nursing homes and/or hospitals, and these cannot be your only visits. 


6.  We encourage you to dress up your pet for all visits. Residents love this. At least put a neckerchief on them so they don’t look like someone just bringing their pet from home for a visit to grandma. Ask any of the “old hands” about their favorite visit stories, and don’t be surprised at emotional tears.


7.  Be sure you have recently read and agree to follow all the Rules from this web site. You are responsible for knowing and following those rules.


8.  The Faithful Paws manager will add you to the Yahoo Group e-mail list after you get certified. You will need to be able to print updated facility lists and the monthly calendar. Once you get started visiting and have notified our manager of the first required visits, then you will also be invited to join our Facebook page, which is open to members only, and will be able to purchase a vest for your dog if you wish. 


9.  Some facilities will ask for your pet’s current health (Rabies Vaccination Certificate) record. We advise that you always carry a copy with you. You must send a new one to our manager whenever your pet gets its rabies shots.


10.  If you have them for one facility, keep your own copies of your flu shots and TB Test so they can be used at multiple facilities.


11.  Always use human-grade treats only, since some clients may inadvertently ‘share’ them. (Cheerios, human grade beef jerky, fruit loops, string cheese, etc.)


12.  Dogs must obey a “WATCH ME” command. The "Watch Me” command is a must and is essential for the management of your dog, especially around other dogs. It is useful in many circumstances. It must take the dog’s focus off of something else and back onto you.


13.  If you drop a treat on the floor, do not allow dog to eat it. You can pick up the treat to give it to your dog from your hand. If you allow your dogs to eat what they find off the floor, this will teach your dog that it is okay to eat off the floor. There could be a potential pill that someone has dropped on the floor that your dog could think it is a treat. Teach your dog a “LEAVE IT” command. The "Leave It” command can save your dogs life!


14.  Faithful Paws is authorized by the AKC for its visits to count for the new Therapy Dog (THD) titles. You must make 50 pet therapy visits and have them documented on your log sheet. There are now several levels of titles for different number of visits. Even if it is not already AKC registered, you can document visits while getting the dog registered, but it will have to be registered before applying for any THD title. Any dog can be registered with AKC, either purebred or as a “PAL” (purebred alternative listing) or All American mixed breed. If your dog is a purebred, it may already be AKC registered. You will receive information and log sheets when you join us. Logging visits or getting THD titles is not required, but an option for our members. On each visit, you will need to remember to ask the team leader to sign your form. Visits can not be signed for or counted retroactively. If you forget your form or forget to get it signed, it will not hurt that you made an extra visit just to be nice, the way we visited for many years before this title was invented.


15.  Also, if your dog is AKC registered, you can send in the CGC test to AKC, and your dog will have CGC included in its AKC titles. The THD titles your dog earns with us can also be included with the AKC.


16.  Pay careful attention to your pet during visits. Especially look for signs of psychological stress, general exhaustion, thirst, or need of a potty break. Your pet may need a short break or may need to leave. After visits, you may find that your pet may be very tired on returning home. Your pet has a very acute battery of senses: smell, hearing, sight, taste, touch and emotional awareness. And their senses are all in play on visits as they offer their own unique brand of love and therapy. This can be exhausting for them. Be sure to let the leader know if you leave early while your pet builds stamina for longer visits.


17.  We do not advertise our program at community activities nor do we have booths at events like dog shows or health fairs. We have a continuous supply of students just from word of mouth, but always welcome more. Our enthusiastic members are great recruiters. We also do not need to seek out new facilities. We are often contacted by new places, and although we try to accommodate many requests, we do not always have enough available volunteer members nearby to fulfill every request. We continually have a long waiting list for our visits. We can be contacted ONLY through this web site on the “Contact Us” page. Your note will be answered within a day or so. If you don't get a response by then, your note did not go through - please try again.

Click HERE for FAQ's (Frequently Asked Questions)

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