Not Ready is not the end of the world

Coco at the MAC AIDS Walk in New York

Scoring a Not Ready on your Pet Partners evaluation isn’t the end of the world. Or the end of your therapy team career. I was reminded the other day that one of our absolute strongest teams got a Not Ready the first time they tested! One of our best teams tested three times before passing. The Pet Partners evaluation is taken seriously and there are several scores a team can receive: Complex, meaning they were the best score in every element and can volunteer at Complex-identified facilities; Predictable, which is exactly what it sounds like and the score most teams receive; Not Ready – well, let’s work on some elements and try again. And the fourth score is Not Appropriate for Visiting and it can be because of the handler or the animal and that team cannot test again.

It is always rewarding when a renewing team moves up from Predictable to Complex, but the most satisfying is when a Not Ready continues to learn and tests again and passes.

Here’s to the original Love Dog and all those she inspired to follow in her paw prints!

Time to test!

Pet Partners evaluations are different from other therapy programs. You don’t test in a group, outdoors or on a last day of training. You must test in a location the animal has never been before, indoors, one team at a time and with volunteers and a neutral dog the animal being tested has never met.

Each test can take up to an hour to get through the 23 elements.

Role playing is an essential part of the test to simulate how the team would do on actual assignments. Handler and animal are being scored separately and the handler score supersedes the animal!

We have two evaluations tomorrow so let’s wish handlers and dogs the best of luck!

Petey is practicing for his renewal evaluation


When to change your assignment

Petey has changed his job a bit and he was not in with all the other dogs … he was outside our area greeting everyone. He was held and cuddled and even took a nap now and then! As your therapy dog ages it is so important to look at what is best for the dog and change up what they do and how they are handled. Petey just loves being cradled in his blanket and being loved on.

This is why retesting every two years is so important for the comfort and safety of our animals and those they interact with.

As your animal and yourself ages and changes, always be aware of what is best for both ends of leash when volunteering.

Another big day for the Love Dogs

Big day today for several Love Dogs. We really enjoy these large events and everyone is always impressed how calm and quiet the dogs are – especially when they learn some may not have met before! We have several shifts working as each team can only work two hours with their several breaks – all in the interest of the welfare of our animals.



TIP Gala was a Hit

The “Heroes with a Heart” Gala with Tip (Trauma Intervention Program) was such a special experience for us all. The guests were thrilled to be greeted by the Love Dogs and the dogs never had so much love and attention. We look forward to many such shared times with this group.

Dash couldn’t get enough hugs, Rosie and Roxy competed for belly rubs and Petey learned to tweet!


A salute to Kirby

Today we want to recognize Kirby, one of the very best AAT dogs. He was very small, only eight pounds, but he was the star “back up” dog. He could encourage someone to walk farther than they ever thought possible by simply backing up inch by inch! Step by step the client approached the little dog barely realizing how far they had walked and how much they had accomplished.

The key to this is the very steadiest of dogs, staying on his mark until given the signal to “back up” with a little hop. Kirby was the best at this and gently sat up when asked to provide a little eye contact and naturally laid down when it was taking a bit longer than expected!

Benny now does this kind of work in the rehab but Mr. Kirby is still recognized as the all time star. And the reward for both human and dog was the biggest hug!


Pet Partners Workshop

The July 9 Pet Partners Handler Workshop is now full … the next one will be September 24. If you are interested in learning more about our animal assisted therapy program and want to prepare for September’s Workshop … the next Free Orientations will be on: Sunday July 23, August 6 and August 20. To sign up for the Orientation contact

 I told Benny we had another poodle in training now and he thinks that is a super idea!!



The most exciting visits

We are so fortunate to have many dogs (and cats) in our program living with special challenges. And when we are invited to meet with children sharing those challenges, magic happens. It is inspirational to hear about dogs that have survived things like strokes or cancer or amputations or blindness, it is even more inspirational to meet them

This month several of our most special dogs will meet with about 200 most special children, many of whom share the uniqueness of the dogs chosen for this event.

They will see how Brittany does just fine with three legs and that Petey has the same shaped feet as they do or how Dash had operations on both back legs and still runs 25 miles an hour!

They will get to pet Daisy and hear her story and watch how Petey learned to eat on his own and how Dash likes to hide in his blanket and how Brittany loves her belly rubs.

They will learn they are all perfect just the way they are!


Preparing for your Evaluation

People think that once they pass their Pet Partners Evaluation, that’s the end of their training and preparation. But it is actually just the beginning for now you get to really put all your hard work into action! As part of the Love Dog program, you will have several supervised visits and a lot of mentoring with experienced teams. We will discover what your pet is best at and what you at the other end of the leash find the most suitable. You will have already have had the opportunity to shadow other teams without your own pet and can have a pretty good idea of what you want to start with. Will it be schools / educational programs, working with special children and adults, working in a rehab, or participating in large group events. Will it be the familiarity of going to the same facility each time or always trying something new. Will it be working on your own or part of a group effort.

Love Dog teams never go off on their own until they are ready. They may try several environments and populations until the light goes on at both ends of the leash… THIS is where we were meant to work!

So the most exciting part of your journey is after you graduate, after you pass your evaluation, after you get your badge and THEN can really start doing this thing we call animal-assisted therapy.

Where you volunteer with your pet

It is always a good idea to review the types of work you are doing with your therapy dog and sometimes it’s time to make a change. I know as Petey gets older, it’s important he only do what is most comfortable for him, which is usually sitting on my lap and being handled very carefully. After Benny was sick, we also changed his schedule and he is now only doing what he absolutely loves the most and thrives at. Benny is back in the gym where he belongs.

Some of our “class dogs” often want to change it up and spend less time with little kids and work with adults more. And then we have the dogs that never spent much time with children, but as they have become more experienced, can handle that environment better. And it is always a thrill to see dogs graduate up to the huge events!

So always be observant about your dog’s abilities and preferences and not be afraid to try something new.