Rock Hill Public Library’s Community Spotlight series features outstanding people in our community. This month, we chatted with King and Karen, a touch therapy dog from Duo Dogs and his owner. Get to know more about touch therapy, the benefits of programs like Paws to Read, and more!
1. How did you get started with Duo Dogs?
A. When I adopted King I knew he would be a perfect dog for Touch Therapy because he was so calm and gentle. We started training with Duo Dogs in January 2014 and King got certified for Adult Touch and PAWS for Reading in April 2014. Later we went back and King got certified in Child Touch Therapy.
2. What is your favorite aspect of the job?
A. Mine and King’s favorite part of the job is the PAWS for Reading [called Paws to Read at the Rock Hill Public Library]. This is when kids get to read to King and pet him. King loves to hear them read and loves to be petted. The kids are always so happy to see King and give him lots of love.
3. How have your and King’s duties changed since the beginning of the pandemic?
A. Unfortunately, since the pandemic started King and I are not able to visit with anyone in person. King was very sad and really missed doing visits when he wasn’t able to go to the schools, libraries or nursing homes to visit everyone. So, at this time we are only able to do Zoom sessions.
4. What are the benefits of touch therapy with dogs for you, King, and the clients? How do touch therapy literacy programs impact the kiddos who participate?
A. The benefits of being a Touch Handler is bringing joy to a lot of people. Sometimes when we have visited with kids in schools they might be having a bad day or be upset about something and petting King or just sitting with him seems to make everything better. PAWS for Reading is great for kids because they get to practice their reading. When the kids read to King it makes him very calm and relaxed, sometimes he even falls asleep and will snore a little!
5. What is the process like for training a touch therapy dog? How do you know if your dog is a good candidate for touch therapy?
A. King first was assessed by a trainer at Duo Dogs to see if he would be a good candidate to go through the training to be a Therapy Dog. Once he was approved we start training. The first six week session is a basic training to certify the dog as a Canine Good Citizen. Once they pass that training you start the six week training to visit adults. In this training, both dog and handler learn how to safely approach adults in wheel chairs and with walkers. Dogs also learn they can’t pick up anything on the floor, such as medicine that could harm them and how to make the visit positive for both them and the person visiting.
To be a good candidate for Touch Therapy a dog must love being around people and being petted. They must also be obedient and follow commands.
6. Rumor has it that King likes bananas; what other kinds of human foods does he like to snack on?
A. King likes bananas, but his most favorite treat is Dairy Queen ice cream. [When we worked before the pandemic], I would stop at Dairy Queen on hot days and get him a dish of vanilla ice cream. If you blinked, it was gone! King is a good eater and not picky, he likes just about all people food.
7. Do you think that King knows his job is important?
A. I don’t know if King knows what he does is important, but I know he can sense when people are feeling sad and he will lay his head on their lap while they pet him. He is making a difference in many people’s lives. I love volunteering and I love being with King, so what could be any better than volunteering with Duo Dogs and making people happy!
Source: Rock Hill Public Library
Thank you to King and Karen for chatting with us! We hope to have Paws to Read programs in the library again soon. For now, learn more about the work that King, Karen, and many others are doing with Duo Dogs in the St. Louis metro area! Visit their website here https://duodogs.org/services/touch-dogs/