Canine Assisted Therapy & Activities...


"Dogs are not our whole lives, but they make our lives whole. ~Roger Caras


  There has been increasing awareness, particularly over the last thirty years, of how canine assisted activities and therapy might be utilized to improve the quality of life, as well as the treatment outcomes, for individuals. Historically, animal assisted activities has referred to the ‘meet and greet” programs in which animals visit patients in hospitals, or nursing homes, providing patients with an opportunity to pet and socialize with a friendly animal and handler. Animal assisted therapy is the deliberate and systematic use of animals in professional care plans, to help patients reach defined treatment goals. They are used to help normalize situations, socialize, calm and motivate patients. Dogs are particularly well suited to this work because of their long history of living and working with humans, and the ease with which we are able to train them. Some populations that have benefited from canine assisted activities and therapy include: nursing home patients, shelter residents, prison inmates, including juvenile delinquents, hospice clients and their families, special education students, including autistic children; and both acute care and rehab hospital patients.

Several national organizations, and numerous regional groups exist to help select, train, and certify dogs and their handlers for this work. Registration with an organization offers handlers the advantage of training and support, as well as liability insurance for volunteers who maintain their registration. These organizations help to promote the credibility of these endeavors, and some are active in promoting research on the health benefits of the human animal bond.  Pam and her dog Angus have been active in animal assisted therapy and activities as Delta Pet Partners since 1999. They have worked with clients in a variety of settings. In addition to completing the instructor’s training course, Pam has completed related coursework on AAT for nurses, and zoonoses (infections passed between humans and other animals). Pam a member of the Delta Society, and is a registered Pet Partner. Pam has a BA in psychology from UCSC, and an MS in nursing from UCSF. She works as a nurse-midwife in a busy hospital based practice.

Angus and Pam have retired from the Pet Partner Program, but continue to support AAA/AAT programs as an important and worthwhile volunteer activity and therapeutic modality, and hope you find the following links and references helpful in your search for programs and information. Potential Pet Partners residing in the Bay Area are referred to the Santa Clara Humane Society's "Hug-A-Pet" program and the Delta Society website for current workshop information.

Angus with his friend Cybelle


Animal-Assisted Therapy Links...

Delta Society

Therapy Dogs International

Therapy Dogs Incorporated

Latham Foundation

Center for The Human-Animal Bond


Green Chimneys

Prison Pet Partnership Program

Furry Friends

Therapy Dogs.Net


Recommended Readings on AAA/AAT

The following books are some of my favorites ...

Therapy Dogs, Training Your Dog To Reach Others by Kathy Diamond Davis. A nice overview of the basic skills needed in a handler-dog visiting team.

Volunteering With Your Pet, How To Get Involved In Animal Assisted Therapy With Any Kind Of Pet by Mary R. Burch, Ph.D. A good, basic overview of the types of animals and settings suitable for AAA programs, and how to get started.

Handbook of Animal Assisted Therapy, Theoretical Foundations and Guidelines for Practice by Aubrey Fine. A well-researched text geared towards professionals looking to include AAT into their clinical practices.

Between Pets and People by Alan Beck and Aaron Katcher. This book is a well-written review of some of the physical, mental and social benefits to humans living with animals.

Rosie, A Visiting Dog’s Story by Stephanie Calmenson. A lovely picture book for children documenting the training of a visiting dog. Includes many nice photos of Rosie visiting with clients in a variety of settings, including children.

Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo. Award winning children’s book on how a stray dog brings a community of lonely people together. The protagonist is a little girl who has lost her mother. A touching and moving story for adults as well.


If you enjoy travel and the outdoors with your dog...

Pam is the list owner of an email discussion group on outdoor recreation

and travel with dogs throughout the Northern & Central California regions.

To learn more visit the Nor-Cal Canine Hikers on the web


Some of my favorite doggie related websites

Caleb's Page: a wonderful site about a therapy dog who travels extensively with his humans!

Stacy's Wag 'N' Train: an award winning site on positive training methods, with a frequently updated listing of doggie related events in the Bay Area

The Bark Unleashed: a print, and web-based magazine, celebrating modern dog culture

Fido Friendly: a print and web based magazine, that serves as voice for the traveling canine

Sheep Dung Estates: a wonderful, quiet getaway for canines & their humans in the Anderson Valley, near Mendocino, Ca.

DogWise: a wonderful web resource on dog related books & products

Moon Doogies: a canine deli and boutique, located in Capitola, California.

Santa Cruz Pet Resort: Angus & Hylander's favorite place to stay when they can't come with us on our travels. They also also provide doggie day care and grooming services.

To learn more about the Santa Cruz dog community,

 visit the Lighthouse Field State Park Dog Community

And please, if you are considering adding a dog to your family...

Pictured with Pam, Angus and Hylander are her three children Sam, Mircea and Sara.

Consider working with a rescue group, your local shelter, or a reputable breeder, and welcoming an mature dog into your family. There are so many wonderful dogs in need of homes, and these knowledgeable individuals have much to offer in helping you understand and work with your new dog, so that you can truly become the best of friends.


to sheltie rescue quilt

Pam has been a contributor  to the sheltie rescue quilt project. The construction and raffle of the quilt is an annual event benefiting sheltie rescue. The quilt is raffled at the Sheltie Nationals in the spring. All proceeds go to sheltie rescue. The sheltie quilters have raised over $7000 since raffling the first quilt in spring 2000. Please visit the quilt website and support their efforts. To learn more about sheltie rescue, follow the above link. 


~A nation's progress can be judged by how they treat their animals. -Gandhi

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