Animal-assisted therapy workshop open to public

ALBANY, Ga. -- Since Paws Patrol started in 1997, it has had a presence in the community's nursing homes, hospitals and assisted living facilities.

A week from now, Paws Patrol will be looking to expand its ranks.

A Delta Society Pet Partners team training workshop is being held from 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Nov. 6-7 in a classroom at Phoebe Northwest for those interested in becoming involved with animal-assisted therapy.

One hour is allotted during both days for lunch, and attendance is required on both days to receive a certificate. The sessions allow participants to look over workbooks and role play, after which evaluations are performed on the animal and its owner.

While this involves a role that has traditionally been for dogs, the workshop is open to almost any species.

"It's for people who love people and animals; there are many animals that can do this," said Marty Harris, Delta Society Pet Partner licensed instructor and evaluator. "Most animals are very intuitive with people.

"We don't focus on any particular breed (or species). I've done evaluations on a horse and a rat."

The Delta Society, which the Paws Patrol is now a part of, is an organization that sets the bar for animal-assisted therapy, Harris says.

"We became a part of it a couple of years ago," she said. "Once you are a Delta Pet Partner team, you can go anywhere in the country."

Animal companionship is something that can make a big difference to someone who just needs someone to nozzle them when they are lonely, which is why Harris feels this organization has generated a lot of interest in the past.

"Animals do help," she said. "It's a friendly face or someone to talk to. It's just as much healing for us as it is for them.

"People do have a different response when they see these animals; it breaks down barriers. If we can bring in a smile, it really makes our day work."

An instructor from Birmingham, Ala., will be assisting Harris with the workshop. Registration is $60, which covers the training manual. The fee is due Monday. There is no cost for the evaluation.

For more information, contact Harris at (229) 883-9411 or e-mail pawspatrol@mchsi.com.