OSF Seeking Dogs & Owners for Animal-Assisted Therapy Program

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ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center is recruiting social, well-mannered, predictable dogs for its Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT) program. AAT uses highly trained animals and handlers to help patients achieve specific physical, social, cognitive and emotional goals. Therapy dogs and their owners visit the hospital and bring comfort to patients, reducing stress, anxiety and blood pressure and increasing patient social interaction and communication.

How to find out if your canine companion is a good fit for the program:
Temperament testing to determine if canine candidates meet the specific requirements of the program will be held from 8-10 a.m., 10 a.m.-noon and 1-3 p.m. Saturday, October 5, at OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center, 5666 E. State St., Rockford, Ill.

There is a $20 fee for testing; the fee is refunded if the dog does not pass. Dogs that pass temperament testing must attend a mandatory training program held Friday through Sunday, November 1-3, at OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center. Dogs that successfully complete the program will be registered with a therapy dog organization.

Requirements for therapy dogs:

• Must be at least one year old
• Must have lived with handlers for a minimum of six months
• Demonstrate proficiency in basic obedience
• Be up-to-date on inoculations
• Have proof of annual heartworm test
• Must be able to be bathed 24 hours prior to coming to the hospital
• Receive monthly year-round heartworm protection and tick/flea protection

Dogs with allergies will not be permitted in the program. Gentle leader harnesses, head halters and prong collars are not allowed. Choke/slip collars and Martingale collars are acceptable.

Dog handlers must be at least 18 years old, be dependable and prompt, have good communication skills and be available to volunteer at least twice a month.

For more information or to sign up for temperament testing, contact Theresa Geraci, BSN, RN, at 815-227-2500. Applications are available at www.osfsaintanthony.org/about/animal-assisted.html.