The Use of Dogs in Hospitals

Animal Assisted Therapy
By Amy McCullough, PhD, Ashleigh Ruehrdanz, MPH, & Molly Jenkins, MSW of American Humane Association (originally published in HABRI Central Briefs)

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2015), over 35 million people are hospitalized in the U.S. every year. Many hospitals across the country have incorporated animal programs, such as “animal-assisted therapy” (AAT), “animal-assisted activities” (AAA), “animal-assisted interactions or interventions” (AAI), resident animals, or pet visitation to give patients the opportunity to interact safely with dogs and to make the hospital environment more comfortable and less stressful. Continue reading

Steve Dale Announces New e-Books for the Holidays

American Humane Association NationalKitten and Puppy Ambassador and board member Steve Dale has just announced that he has published two new e-books in time for the holidays detailing tips for tackling some of the most common issues dog and cat owners encounter. “Good Dog,” and, you guessed it, “Good Cat,” are each formatted as a Q&A with inquiries from real-life pet owners who’ve come to Steve with their dilemmas. Always game for a challenge, Steve answers each question with helpful advice and always in good humor.

“Good Dog” contains questions ranging on the most common of dog issues such as separation anxiety and aggression toward other people and pooches, but also has a section on some more unusual issues, such as canine grieving and getting your reluctant dog to suit up on Halloween or whenever he or she may need to don a costume — Rudolph the Red-Nosed Retriever, anyone?

The latter edition is much the same, this time looking at things from a feline perspective. Steve addresses queries on excessive scratching, litter box issues and aggression while also providing tips on adoption and welcoming a new cat into the household.

Each book is available on all major eReader devices and platforms ($2.99), while there is also an “enhanced” version for iPad ($4.99) which features videos from Steve and more!

Finally, I want to congratulate Steve on being named the Ms. Meowsky’s Pet Citizen of the Year, awarded by the Barker & Meowsky pet products company. In honor of Steve, they’ve created the Steve the Happy Reindeer toy for dogs. These tuggable, chewable plush reindeer are the perfect last-second stocking stuffer for that certain four-legged friend in your life. Best of all, a portion of the proceeds from the sale of these toys will benefit the Lucy Fund, which supports the American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards™ Animal-Assisted Therapy Category.

Congratulations again to Steve Dale, who has had a very busy holiday season!

On My Holiday Reading List: ‘Thunder Dog’

This holiday season, I want to take the opportunity to share with you a few books that have been on my reading list lately; books that will make the perfect gift for the animal lover in your life. These books offer tales of hope and will surely bring a smile to that special someone’s face.

Guide Dog RoselleIf you’re a reader of this blog, then you’re no doubt aware of our American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards™ and the story of Roselle the guide dog. Roselle and her handler Michael Hingson truly defined what it meant to be heroes on both ends of the leash. And on one of the worst days in American history, this pair rose to make it their finest hour. Michael, along with Susy Flory, recap their dramatic escape in the new book, Thunder Dog, and I guarantee you won’t be able to put it down until the very end.

On the morning of September 11, just like any other work day, the two were on the 78th floor of Tower 1 of the World Trade Center. Michael was prepping for a big sales meeting when suddenly he heard a massive explosion, which caused the tower to lurch. Sensing something was wrong, but not knowing the gravity of the situation, they evacuated the office and headed for safety. Always ready to do her job, Roselle rose to the occasion like never before. Her whole life had been spent leading up to this moment, and she and Michael worked together through a series of commands he used to evacuate the imperiled building as quickly and safely as possible.

As Michael recounts their harrowing descent down those 1,463 stairs, he weaves in tales of his own personal history and also sheds light on what it means to be blind in this country. You learn about his strong family upbringing, with parents not wanting their child to be seen as different from his peers. Michael’s constant reminder to the reader is that being blind should not inhibit anything you want to do and that the only thing stopping you is yourself. Indeed, he loved to ride his bike as a kid, has driven a car and even flown a plane!

I learned a lot about the way in which blind people are trained to work with and paired up with their guide dogs. Michael has had several dogs since he acquired his first, Squire, as a teenager. Michael clearly has a great amount of respect for the trainers of these brilliant animals, and of course loves each of the dogs as members of his family.

In the 10 years since that fateful day, a lot has changed in our lives, and certainly Michael’s. Sadly, Roselle passed away earlier this year, but her legacy will live on. He never wants us to lose sight of the bravery exhibited every day by such heroes. Although they are doing what they are trained to do, we should never take it for granted.

I never got to meet Roselle during the run-up to the Hero Dog Awards, but I feel as if I know everything about her through Michael’s beautiful writing in Thunder Dog. This is a must for your reading list this holiday season. It will certainly give you a new appreciation for the hard work and dedication these guide dogs put in and why they are all heroes to me.

On My Holiday Reading List: ‘Animals and the Kids Who Love Them’

This holiday season, I want to take the opportunity to share with you a few books that have been on my reading list lately — books that will make the perfect gift for the animal lover in your life. These books offer tales of hope and will surely bring a smile to that special someone’s face.

Earlier this year, our board member and pet expert, Steve Dale, and I were approached by Allen and Linda Anderson about writing the foreword to their upcoming book: Animals and the Kids Who Love Them, and we jumped at the opportunity, for this title could not sum up the work of American Humane Association more accurately. We are one of the nation’s oldest humanitarian organizations, and the only one with the dual focus of preventing abuse, neglect and abandonment for both children and animals. But also, we work hard every day to promote the human-animal bond, which is the special link to building more compassionate, humane communities.

The Andersons’ book does a wonderful job of telling inspirational stories about animals who have brightened children’s lives, when it sometimes may seem like nothing else could work. By dividing it into three sections — Hope, Healing, and Compassion — the book offers numerous stories told by the people whose lives were impacted directly. And these are not just tales of dogs and cats, mind you. No, everything you can think of, from llamas, horses, and chickens, to turtles and guinea pigs, are in there as well.

In the Hope section, you’ll read about Ricochet, who you may remember as the winner of our Emerging Hero Dog category at our inaugural American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards™. Who can forget the sight of this golden retriever on the surfboard, helping children with disabilities to get out on the water and hit the waves? Her owner, Judy Fridono, is also a hero because she has made it possible for these children to do something they might not have thought themselves physically capable of.

Moving on to the Healing section, there is the story of a horse, a llama, and a chicken, who all touched and brightened the lives of children through the use of animal-assisted interactions. Tanya Welsch writes about a few of these instances where she and her animals helped children who did not fit in socially, so they could adjust and not feel as anxious when it came to interacting with their peers. When people think of therapy through the use of animals, these barnyard creatures aren’t typically the ones that come to mind, but Tanya shows that sometimes this is what it takes to help the children live more enriched lives.

Finally, the last section in the book gives readers a chance to explore the compassion that people have for animals. We learn about how a turtle named Pepperoni helps teach his young owner, Jamesey, about dealing with big changes in life. Jamesey loves his little turtle, but when it comes time for his family to move from New York to Florida, the boy learns that he needs to give up his friend, because Noni, as the turtle is nicknamed, would not be able to accompany them. Instead, a family is found who will adopt Noni, where he will live in a lovely reptile menagerie, happily spending his days with others of his kind. The boy is of course saddened, but learns a valuable life lesson about coping and moving on.

Reading these short stories, you can’t help but be touched. Whether it’s a chuckle or a tear in your eye, this book will bring out nearly every emotion. If there was ever a way to condense the broad scope of the work we do at American Humane Association into a book, this would be it. We can never underestimate the power of the human-animal bond, and Animals and the Kids Who Love Them — which is available in bookstores nationwide and online — will make sure of that.

Please check back soon for a couple more recommended books on my holiday list!

Welcome, Hero Dog Awards Fans!

In the chaos of a burning World Trade Center tower on 9/11, Roselle remained calm as she led her blind partner and a co-worker down 78 flights of stairs to safety — through the darkness, smoke, and confusion. Her partner, Michael, says she saved his life that day. Roselle was a guide dog. Michael — and thousands of other people — think she was a Hero Dog.

Robin Ganzert and RIN TIN TIN

American Humane Association believes that Hero Dogs are ordinary dogs who do extraordinary things. And on Veterans Day, with a star-studded celebrity judging panel and presenters — including Betty White, Carson Kressley, Peter Fonda, Mickey Rooney, Paula Abdul, Faith Ford, Five for Fighting, and many others, along with our national spokesdog, the next-generation Rin Tin Tin — we premiered on the Hallmark Channel the first-ever American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards™, presented by cesar® canine cuisine.

Although the human stars were out in force that night in Los Angeles, the true stars were the American Hero Dog finalists. The inaugural campaign for America’s Hero Dogs met an overwhelming response. Military working dogs, search and rescue dogs, law enforcement dogs, hearing dogs, service dogs, therapy dogs, emerging hero dogs, and guide dogs — including Roselle — were honored with nearly 500 nominations, recognizing the extraordinary accomplishments of ordinary dogs across the country and, indeed, around the world.

Do you know a dog who has what it takes to be a hero? Nominate your deserving canine for next year’s American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards™.

Since 1877, as one of this nation’s oldest humanitarian organizations, American Humane Association has been there when society’s most vulnerable — children and animals — have needed us. This includes being at the forefront of virtually every major advance in protecting children, pets and farm animals from cruelty, abuse and neglect. Today, we’re also leading the way in understanding human-animal interaction and its role in society.

Thank you for tuning in to Hallmark Channel for the premiere of American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards™ and showing your support for hero dogs everywhere. Although the dogs are doing what they’re trained to do, it is something we should never take for granted and we owe them our appreciation.

Honoring Our Four-Legged Heroes on the Battlefield and Beyond

This week is a very special one for American Humane Association. It is the culmination of a project that has been more than a year in the making, and I’m beyond excited for all of our friends to have the chance to watch the inaugural American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards™ presented by CESAR® Canine Cuisine this Friday — Veterans Day — on Hallmark Channel at 8 p.m./7 p.m. Central. The remarkable tales of our eight finalists serve as an inspiration to us all, and I know I won’t be the only one shedding a tear or two.

But earlier this week, we had the chance to do a very special promotion leading up to Friday’s broadcast. American Humane Association went to Capitol Hill, where, in the room for the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs of the House of Representatives, we hosted a very special Tribute to War Heroes on Both Ends of the Leash. There, we welcomed three of our finalist dogs and their handlers, who all were proud to be on hand to honor the men, women, and dogs who fight valiantly every day to keep Americans safe.

Bino and his handler Debbie Kandoll

Joining us on the Hill that day were Michael Hingson, whose guide dog, Roselle, saved his life by leading him down 78 flights of stairs in the World Trade Center following the 9/11 attacks, as well as Military Working Dog Bino C152, who served in Iraq, and search-and-rescue dog Sage, who served in Iraq and at the Pentagon during 9/11. Each of their handlers spoke beautifully about the importance of the work these dogs do every day to keep people safe. As Michael put it, “They’re doing their job” — but their work is something we should never take for granted.

Although Bino is retired from active duty, he and his handler, Debbie Kandoll, work with our nation’s veterans afflicted with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Doctors have recommended that some of these soldiers use dogs as part of their therapy, and Debbie and Bino make sure the dogs are trained properly to help these veterans on the road to recovery. Sage has had an impressive career as a search-and-rescue dog, but now she is helping people in a new way: she visits camps for children affected by cancer, to help the kids learn to cope with the disease.

Our afternoon on the Hill was all possible thanks to Virginia Congressman Jim Moran’s sponsorship of the event. Rep. Moran is the co-chair of the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus and is a great friend to the institution, and we were glad he was able to join us and speak about the power of the human-animal bond. He is a champion for tougher punishments for people involved in dogfighting, as well as for helping to change the status of military working dogs like Bino so they are reclassified as soldiers when on active duty and as veterans when they retire.

The sad reality is that dogs in our military are currently regarded as equipment, and there might not be a ride home for them when their tour of duty is over. A law signed in 2000 by President Clinton now makes it possible for civilians to adopt retired military working dogs, but they need to pay for their transport back to the United States, which can be a great cost. Debbie is a strong, strong advocate for this change, and I applaud her for the work she is doing to help get these dogs home to loving families.

Monday afternoon was special for American Humane Association as we celebrated heroes, both human and canine. Many congressional staffers and members of the national press were there to hear our message of compassion and the human-animal bond, but also to get a small taste of the Hero Dog Awards broadcast we have in store on Friday.

This Thursday, I will appear on the Fox & Friends morning show along with our national spokesdog, Rin Tin Tin, a hero whose forebear was born on the battlefields of Europe during World War I. We will be there to tell Rinty’s story and to promote Friday’s broadcast. I invite you to tune in then and, of course, on Friday to Hallmark Channel, as we celebrate dogs everywhere and name America’s Hero Dog. Enjoy the show!