Man's Best Friend Is Working Overtime
“A little canine attention can go a long way,” says Kathleen (Kathy) Adamle, R.N., Ph.D., AOCN, Patrick’s handler and an assistant professor at the Kent State College of Nursing.
“Patients light up when Patrick is around; even if he can’t go into a patient’s room, his presence makes people smile,” Adamle says.
For occasions when Patrick cannot go near patients because of the nature of their illnesses or allergies, Adamle has taught him to wave from the door. In a demonstration, she gives the command and Patrick lifts his paw. He also takes a bow when he leaves, which delights patients.
Animals have long been known to calm and bring joy to the ailing. Nursing pioneer Florence Nightingale observed that caged birds seemed to exert a positive e ffect on the well-being of mental patients.
In order to pass the Delta Society Pet Partners skills and aptitude tests and become certified, Adamle says Patrick has undergone extensive obedience training.
Patrick’s tail beats wildly as Adamle straps on his signature green Delta Dog harness for a photo shoot. Still, the entire time, he demonstrates complete focus on Adamle, watching her facial expression and intently listening to her commands.
Before becoming a Delta dog, Patrick learned obedience for another service-oriented job. An obedience trainer, recognizing Patrick’s agility and focus as a pup, recommended him for search and rescue (SAR) training.
Adamle felt she should develop Patrick’s gifts as a means to help others, as well as to match her skills as a health care professional. Not knowing quite what she was getting into, she and Patrick embarked upon a rigorous two-year training process during which dog and handler are tested in areas including land navigation and wilderness survival.
“It’s a big commitment of time and money. We’re all volunteers who pay for training, testing and equipment out of our pockets,” Adamle says, “but we don’t do this for publicity—we do it as service and to help the community.”
SAR dog teams are trained to find lost children, elderly people who’ve wandered from home, and victims of drowning accidents, natural and manmade disasters.
“Humans can’t even fathom the power of a dog’s sense of smell,” Adamle says.
“These dogs are trained only on human scent” she adds, “and can detect the presence of what you are looking for much more quickly than humans can with their eyes. They can cover a larger distance in much quicker time, which may be the difference between life and death, especially in inclement weather.”
SAR dogs specialize in areas including tracking and trailing by air scenting (Wilderness Search), or detecting human remains.
Local chapters of SAR dog units, which are active across the United States, are called to work by their local law enforcement agencies. One local SAR unit recently used
“Last winter, the Kent State University Police Department campaigned to allow our search and rescue dogs into the vacated Johnson Hall, where they gained experience searching in a building,” Adamle says. “Air flow inside a building is very different than working outdoors and we were very grateful to KSU to allow us to use their facility for training.”
While Patrick’s primary job is now being a Delta Pet Partner, Adamle is in the process of training her 11-month-old golden retriever, Jake Muldoon, in trailing. Trailing, which requires that the dog sniff an article of the missing person’s clothing before attempting to find him or her, is Jake’s specialty. Jake has been taking classes in obedience since he was 10 weeks old and is showing promise to be a valuable search and rescue canine, Adamle says.
As part of his social training, Jake recently accompanied Adamle to a Kent State men’s basketball game. Adamle explains that Jake must become comfortable in a variety of social situations, with people and other canines, as well as accustomed to loud noises and confusion.
“I sat him down right in front of the band, and it didn’t phase him one bit,” she says.
Delta Society training also might be in Jake’s future—at the game, he inadvertently provided therapy to several college students missing their beloved pets.
“The students kept coming up to us, asking if they could pet him,” Adamle says. “Most of them have to leave their pets behind when they come to live on campus.”
Both Delta dogs and SAR dogs must have amiable dispositions. When dealing with hospitalized or elderly people, or frightened/injured victims, many dogs could cause additional harm by jumping or biting. Aggressive or uncontrolled behavior is absolutely not permitted in a working canine. Obedience and focus on the handler is the key to beginning any therapy or service work.
Adamle says local animal therapy programs and SAR units are always in need of volunteers. If you have a pet with a fitting disposition and are interested in learning more about Delta Society or SAR, go to www.deltasociety.org or www.nasar.org/nasar/specialty_fields.php on the Web, or call a hospital near you to find out whether they house a pet therapy program.
To watch a video related to this article, visit http://wmserver.kent.edu:8800/einside/hospice.wmv.
by Lisa Lambert