Travel is a big part of the job for Go Team Therapy Dogs and their handlers, who during emergencies such as the Black Forest fire are transported by bus to sites where they can provide comfort and distraction to disaster victims and first responders.
For therapy duos in training, it's important to ensure a pooch and its handler are comfortable navigating public transportation, along with all the other possible situations they might encounter as a volunteer certified therapy dog team.
To that end, more than two dozen handler-dog teams underwent a training exercise March 29 aboard two Mountain Metropolitan Transit busses in Colorado Springs, staffed for the day by volunteers.
"A dog might not know how to behave on a bus, if it's his first time. The way we do our training, it's all hands-on. It's not sitting in a classroom, it's not sitting in a facility, it's real-life training so they're exposed to everything," master trainer Nancy Trepagnier said.
Trepagnier had no plans to found the therapy dog program when she, her son and their dogs began visiting displaced residents as emissaries of hope during the Waldo Canyon fire. Today, nearly 100 volunteer teams serve communities nationwide.
Exposing teams to the wide array of scenarios they will face helps them find their ideal niche.
"They're exposed to library training through doing Paws to Read, they're exposed to the busses, they're exposed to homeless shelters and assisted living," Trepagnier said. "That way, they learn if it's something they want to get into."
For more information, visit goteamsms.com.
Contact Stephanie Earls: 636-0364