LOVE IS THE CURE
By Annoula Wylderich
Sue Grundfest was recovering from a life threatening illness more than twenty years ago, when she decided to adopt Coco, a puppy who was soon discovered to have some health issues of her own. Coco, it turned out, was diabetic and subsequently became blind and deaf. But that didn’t stop her ability to love, hence her nickname, “Love Dog.”
Sue, who retired from the corporate world, is a licensed instructor and evaluator for the nationally renowned therapy organization, Pet Partners, of which Love Dog Adventures is a community partner affiliate. They are a 501c3 public charity engaged in the field of animal-assisted therapy.
Love Dog Adventures inspires physical and emotional healing by creating custom protocols for therapeutic and educational animal-assisted interactions. It is an all-volunteer program that utilizes dogs and cats to serve the most fragile populations, such as adults and children living with emotional, physical and mental challenges or life-defining trauma. Volunteers and their animals work in psychiatric facilities, hospitals, schools, rehabilitation healthcare centers; and with stroke survivors and others in similar debilitating situations.
LDA has many programs, but among the most popular is “Power of Pets,” which is comprised of the “Be Cool, Not Cruel” anti-bullying initiative that focuses discussion upon tolerance and acceptance through the eyes of animals. This program targets elementary-age children and has been in great demand. Any school can request a visit by contacting Sue, below.
A second feature is “Response to Intervention,” which provides specially tailored programs for children and their families who are affected by mental illness, life-defining trauma, Autism Spectrum Disorder and other special needs, physical or otherwise. Each client and facility has a uniquely-tailored protocol to achieve specific goals.
A third popular and equally in-demand feature: helping students de-stress during exam time around campuses. Program animals and their humans visit colleges twice a year to meet thousands of students and spread the love and serotonin. Students have an opportunity to get up close and experience that “aw” factor that comes built in with these irresistible furry rock stars.
Every animal in the program has its story, from a starved, neglected little Pug to a pup with multiple homes in his first year of life and deemed “unadoptable.”
Their stories have been documented as they become familiar to the children and adults with whom they work, so they can be understood and loved for the unique beings they are.
Every animal has a trading card that has been created specifically so that each may tell their story. These are given out and have often helped reach breakthrough’s for those with memory or other cognitive issues.
For those interested, the next Handler Workshop will be held in April. Courses fill up quickly; a Free Orientation is suggested prior to taking a workshop. For signups or more information, contact Sue@lovedogadventures.org, or visit: www.lovedogadventures.com/about-us/join-our-team or www.facebook.com/pages/Love-Dog-Adventures/619523368178529. Meet the Love Dog team during a free evening at Mingo Kitchen, on Monday, May 16, from 4:00 – 7:00 p.m (www.lovedogadventures.com/events).
Annoula Wylderich is a real estate redeveloper, designer, writer, animal advocate, founder of Animal Protection Affiliates (a grass roots all-volunteer organization), and the NV District Leader for the Humane Society of the United States.