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BELLA is October’s Therapy Animal of the Month!

Congratulations, Bella!

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Why is Bella our therapy animal of the month?

Bella is a lovely addition to the Chimo Animal Assisted Wellness and Learning Society, an organization whose goals are to: recruit and certify therapy animals including dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, and mini-horses, recruit and train therapists to use animals to help their clients, facilitate ongoing AAT programs in their community, and provide services to assist new facilities in creating and sustaining their own AAT programs!

Here’s a little more information on Bella!

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Just look at those eyes!

Bella is an 8 year old Border Collie mix from the Edmonton Humane Society. She was adopted when she was 1 1/2 years old, and the Humane Society suggested that she had been a stray her whole life. She didn’t seem to know what to make of humans. She was the most scared, skittish dog you would ever meet, and it took years of training and love, but she is now just the sweetest mutt you could imagine!

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Bella became a therapy dog approximately one year ago when her owner decided that she had extra love to share.  Bella sailed through the certification process and has been doing incredible work ever since. Bella has a weekly placement at Boyle Street Education Center where she participates in a therapy group with some of the students.  Bella’s patient and loving nature seems to be a great addition to the therapy group and several of the students have become quite attached to her!

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Who wouldn’t become attached to Bella? We love her already.

Fun facts about Bella:
Favorite treat: anything with peanut butter!
Favorite toy: anything that another dog has, she is completely uninterested in toys unless another dog is playing with one.
Favorite place to be: hiking in the mountains!
Favorite activity: hiking and exploring, she also loves being chased by other dogs.
Favorite spot: The left side of her owner, Danielle’s, bed!

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Many thanks to CAAWLS, and to Danielle and Ann! Without their help, we wouldn’t even have known about this wonderful pup!

And once again, congratulations, Bella!!

 

For more about CAAWLS: http://www.caawls.org/

 

Congratulations, BELLE!

September’s Therapy Animal of the Month is……

Belle!

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All photos courtesy of Belle’s owner, Geoff!

Belle is an 11 year old American Kennel Club registered golden retriever, and has been a therapy dog for a whopping 8 years, with over 500 visits completed! Belle has even been inducted into the New Jersey Veterinary Medical Association Animal Hall of Fame- an honor which only about 100 animals have achieved over the past 21 years! We can definitely see why Belle is special.

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Belle’s photo for her induction into the NJVMA hall of fame!

Fun Facts about Belle:

  • She loves to accompany her owner, Geoff, to his classes (he is a NJ Certified Animal Control Officer, a NJ Certified Animal Cruelty Investigator, and a Middlesex County Animal Response Team Bureau Chief) and she also attends many of his meetings where she provides a significant morale boost to the people involved!
  • Belle helped to raise and socialize an abandoned 4 week old terrier, Anna, (now 2 years old) who has become an integral part of her family!
  • Belle’s favourite activities are hiking, swimming, hanging out with kids, and her best friend, Anna (pictured below)
  • Belle’s favourite treats are cooked turkey hot dogs.

 

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Belle and Anna playing in the snow.

Geoff, her owner (and best friend!) gave us the scoop on Belle’s history, and how she became a therapy dog in the first place:

Belle was 5 months old (and a breeder “left-over” with a “questionable future”) when we adopted each other after my previous two dogs (aged 14 & 13) had passed within 5 1/2 months of each other. She became my therapy dog and did so well assisting me through my grieving process that we trained and became certified as a therapy dog team. This led to her career as a therapist for others. Her best trait is her ability to engage with and give her undivided attention to each person she meets and interacts with.

 

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Belle LOVES helping people learn to read!

Here are some of Belle’s incredible accomplishments:

  • Belle is a featured instructor in Career Development Institute (CDI) courses that have educated and certified  over 1,600 NJ Certified Animal Control Officers, NJ Certified Animal Cruelty Investigators, Humane Law Enforcement Officers, Shelter workers, and Pet Owners. She demonstrates the animal human bond, proper dog handling and Pet First Aid (specifically she allows students to find her pulse and heart rate). Belle is always “front & center” in each class graduation picture.
  • Therapy visits have included nursing homes, library reading programs, senior centers, school education programs, and community events.
  • Over the past 8 years, Belle’s “Read to a Dog” library program has assisted 100’s of children in learning to read. Belle rewards each reader by having them tie a colored ribbon on her special vest designed for that purpose (as might be expected, her vest is heavily laden with brightly colored ribbons).
  • Belle personally donated 17 potentially lifesaving Pet Oxygen Masks to the Edison, NJ Fire Department (pictured below) as well as the Middlesex County Animal Response Team and specially monogrammed blankets to the Edison Animal Shelter.
  • As a testament to Belle’s exemplary personality and work, she has been featured in numerous articles and some television programs.

Belle donating pet oxygen masks to the NJ fire department! Thanks, Belle!

 

Congratulations, Belle!

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Belle hard at work in class.

 

To see more of Belle in action, check out this video:

https://vimeo.com/90703586

August’s Therapy Animal of the month is ROJO!

Our Therapy Animal of the Month for August is Rojo the Llama!

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Photo courtesy of Mountain Peaks Therapy Llamas and Alpacas

Rojo is a 14 year old llama from Mountain Peaks Therapy Llamas and Alpacas, located in Brush Prairie, Washington. He’s a local celebrity! He participates in many parades and charity events, and makes regular visits to schools, hospitals, and adult-care facilities. I got to pick the brains of Lori Gregory from Mountain Peaks, and ask her some questions about Rojo. Here is the interview!

 

What first told you Rojo would be a great therapy animal?

Rojo was the first llama that we ever owned, and he was sweet and touchable from the moment that we got him at 4 months old, so we didn’t really know just how exceptional he was until we were around other llamas at the fair, and for parades. When he grew bigger and bigger and never outgrew his wonderful interactive personality and huggableness, we really knew that he had a special gift, and wanted to share him off the farm more, but we were concerned about liability insurance, and where he would be accepted out in the public. We had heard about others that took their llamas into nursing homes, but didn’t know how to go about doing that with Rojo until some folks told us about a local therapy program- the following day, an encounter with a special-needs child confirmed our decision, and we’ve never looked back!

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Photo courtesy of Mountain Peaks Therapy Llamas and Alpacas

 

How many people do you estimate Rojo has helped in his lifetime?

Rojo has been doing therapy work for 9 years now, and has gone off the farm over 1,000 times for visits and all kinds of public and charitable events, interacting with at least 50, 100, sometimes 1000 people during each outing. Add that to the additional 5 years of his early life, in which he participated in our county and state fairs, and numerous parades each year-  I’m certain that he has personally touched hundreds of thousands, just in the Portland area during his lifetime to this point.

In addition, since the rise of social media, and so many informational formats via computer, we have received many messages from people that have been moved by Rojo through features about him on TV, and his story that has been featured in a number of books and many news and magazine articles, so I don’t think I could come up with a number that would come close to reality!

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Photo courtesy of Mountain Peaks Therapy Llamas and Alpacas

 

What is the usual reaction to seeing Rojo for the first time?

Haha- usually the initial reaction of most people to seeing Rojo for the first time is a look of shock and surprise, followed by BIG smiles, then a little apprehension as they ask if they can hug him (sometimes we have to offer a carrot for them to feed or “kiss” Rojo with, to break the ice), and after that, they go in for the LONG HUG, where their eyes close, and you can just see all their stress and troubles melting away!

Little children can often be pretty scared, seeing such a huge, fluffy, unfamiliar animal for the first time, so they often will hide behind their parents,, but when we offer them a piece of carrot to feed Rojo, that usually helps them to become more brave. Once they see how fun it is to feed Rojo, and how he just tickles their hand with his lips, and how calm and gentle he is, then they don’t want to stop feeding him!  The kids also love petting and hugging Rojo, and often ask if they can ride him (which, unfortunately, they can’t-  llamas have a sharp upper edge on their spine that can’t bear much weight. Many larger llamas can be conditioned to be used as packing animals and such, to bear more weight, and those llamas can actually be ridden by young children, up to 80 lbs or so. However, most llamas are not conditioned to be used for that purpose. Rojo, because he’s shorter and a bit tubbier than the average llama, does not like extra weight on his back.)

Our favorite thing is to see those that are initially very afraid of Rojo, giving him lots of hugs and kisses by the end of their interaction with him!

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Photo courtesy of Mountain Peaks Therapy Llamas and Alpacas

 

What is Rojo’s favourite food?

Rojo absolutely LOVES anything sweet or salty- in fact, we just discovered the variety of his palate at the fair last week, as he was challenge for the first time ever, in an “eating contest” against another llama named La Joya Rose. He won by a pretty wide margin! We already knew that he goes crazy for Portland’s own Voodoo Doughnuts!! Check this out:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8PLKuzXxBtA

 

What do you think Rojo’s favourite place to be is?

Rojo’s favorite place to be is anywhere he is getting lots of HUGS and CARROTS!! (Well, and now maybe Voodoo Doughnuts!!)  When he is home and relaxing, Rojo has a favorite shade tree that he loves to sit under, and he also enjoys laying in the sun on warm days (photo attached- if you look close, you can see him smiling!)

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Photo courtesy of Mountain Peaks Therapy Llamas and Alpacas

 

Congratulations, Rojo!

If you’d like to learn more about Rojo or his friends at Mountain Peaks, please visit:

http://rojothellama.com/

https://www.facebook.com/RojoTheLlama/

Spartacus is July’s Therapy Animal of the Month!

Congratulations, Spartacus!

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Picture taken from https://www.facebook.com/spartacus.chooch

Spartacus is our very special Therapy Animal of the Month for July!

Spartacus is a 125 pound 6 year old Akita (he’ll be 7 in September, if you’re waiting to get him a birthday present). He’s a member of the K9 First Responders, based in Connecticut.

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Picture taken from https://www.facebook.com/spartacus.chooch

He’s a bit of a celebrity around those parts, and for good reason!

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How can you not love those giant fluffy feet?

Spartacus isn’t an ordinary therapy dog! He’s helped people in some of the worst situations of their lives. After the tragedies of Sandy Hook, and the Boston Marathon, Spartacus was there giving out hugs and kisses to anyone who needed them. He also helps kids learn to read, and even brings smiles to people in hospitals who might be having a bad day. He goes wherever he is needed, along with his team and his awesome handler, Brad Cole. They make an amazing duo, that’s for sure!

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Spartacus’s favourite spot to relax is along the break wall near his home. Watching the sunset over the sea can be quite beautiful and calming after a hard day’s work. Oh, and his favourite treat is pizza crusts. What can we say, Spartacus has a big heart, AND a big stomach. We loved hanging out with Brad and Spartacus during our time in Connecticut, and we can’t wait to share Spartacus’s story with the world when our film is done!

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Spartacus looking handsome for our film crew.

If you want to keep up with all Spartacus and his K9 First Responder friends are up to you can find him in our film, or at any of these links!

His Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/spartacus.chooch?fref=ts

His Website: https://about.me/spartacuschooch

K9 First Responders: https://k9fr.org/

K9 First Responders Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/K9FirstResponders/

 

Drumroll, Please! Therapy Animal of the Month for June is…..

MAGIC!

Magic, a miniature therapy horse pays a visit to Rescue 1 firehouse on 43rd Street in Midtown, Manhattan.

Magic is a charming miniature therapy horse who provides comfort and cuddles to whoever needs them most. She spends most of her time at a farm based in North Florida, though she travels more than most humans do! Magic is a member of Gentle Carousel Miniature Therapy Horses, a volunteer run non-profit. Magic and 25 other therapy horses visit people of all different ages in many different states, whether it be in hospitals, hospice programs, reading programs, or special events!

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Some interesting facts about Magic:

  • Magic is fully potty trained! She can tell her handler when she needs to go.
  • She visits around 5000 adults and children each and every year.
  • Magic is a Deputy with the Alachua County Sheriffs Office
  • Time Magazine named Magic one of History’s 10 Most Courageous Animals- she is the only living animal on the list!
  • AARP named her Most Heroic Pet In America
  • Magic is a Breyer Portrait Model Horse
  • The Daily Mirror named her “One of Seven Most Notable Animal Heroes in the World” in 2014
  • She is pet hero of the year for 2016, voted by the Florida Veterinary Medical Association Hall of Fame
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Sheriff Magic

Like Gizmo (our therapy animal of May), Magic had a big role to play after the tragic events of Sandy Hook in December of 2012. Magic and her handlers had no idea that so many survivors, siblings, parents, and even first responders would show up to visit with her. Over 600 people waited patiently in line for Magic, and for almost four hours Magic greeted each and every one of them, providing as much love and comfort as she could. Since the response to Magic’s presence was so great, her one week stay in Sandy Hook turned to two, and since then she has returned several times to connect with all the friends she’s made.

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Magic visiting Sandy Hook

The A Connection film team recognizes a special animal when we see one, and Magic is definitely very special. Her love, tenderness and her ability to sniff out those who need help most are what make Magic such an amazing, special animal. That’s why she’s our Therapy Animal of the Month!

Congratulations, MAGIC!

Magic at Shands New Year's Eve 2014 FB

 

If you would like to learn more about Magic or her co-workers, please don’t hesitate to contact Gentle Carousel.

Gentle Carousel Miniature Therapy Horses

www.Horse-Therapy.org

www.facebook.com/TherapyHorses

352-226-9009

gentlecarousel@gmail.com

 

 

Don’t forget to like our Facebook page for regular updates on our film about Animal Therapy!

https://www.facebook.com/aconnectionfilm/

 

 

 

 

May’s Therapy Animal of the Month is….

 

GIZMO!

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Gizmo is the 3.5 pound wonderdog hailing from Connecticut! For those wondering what breed he is, he has a number of breeds in his ancestry, including Maltese, Papillion, and Japanese Chin! No wonder he’s so cute.

We met him on our trip, and instantly fell in love. Not only is Gizmo instantly everyone’s best friend, but he’s a very hard worker, too. He is a therapy dog with Paws for Friendship, and visits many people to help them feel good and de-stress. He also loves books, and because of that, visits Hartford Public Library twice a month to help children learn to read. Perhaps most amazingly, Gizmo is a member of the K9 First Responders, where he is part of an emergency psychological trauma response team, with his handler Jen Adams!

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Gizmo and his sister, Mini Cooper.

Giz supports many causes. He raises funds for children’s charities and other things like pet rescues, food pantries, veteran’s causes, civics education, disabilities awareness, and even cancer research! He also does educational programs on topics such as anti bullying, how to be helpers in our communities, and animal care and safety.

Gizmo has touched many hearts, and it’s shown by how many news articles, radio shows, viral videos, TV segments, dog magazines, and even poems(!!) he has been featured in!

After hanging around with Gizmo and Jen for a day, you come to understand just how loving they are, and how much they truly give back to the community. It’s this reason that Giz is our therapy animal of the month!

Oh, that, and…..cuz we’re frens!

 

Check out Gizmo’s Fan page if you haven’t already, and learn about all the other AMAZING stuff he does!  https://www.facebook.com/GizmosFrens/

 

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What a smile!

ANNOUNCING A NEW FEATURE!

Hi everyone!

We’ve decided to do something fun to help us give back to these wonderful animals and their handlers. Through our filming and research, we’ve come across hundreds of amazing animals with incredible stories! So, from now on, we will announce a new special therapy animal each month!

We’ll include a short bio, lots of pictures, and some fun facts! (HINT: May’s therapy animal is already hiding on our page somewhere…)

Connecticut Trip Update!

Last week, the whole crew was in and around Milford, Connecticut to film a section of the film. We really wanted to focus on something we’ve never seen before…and we found that in the K9 First Responders. These incredible dogs and their handlers help out whenever they’re asked for, including huge events like the Boston Marathon. They provide support and comfort for whoever wants it- though sometimes the dogs know before anyone who is feeling down, upset, or anxious.

We were lucky enough to have Bradford Cole show us around on our 5 day stay. Brad is the Executive Director of K9 First Responders, and connected us with a lot of people who were more than willing to tell their incredible stories of doggy love and compassion.

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Our Director of Photography, Francis, having some one-on-one time with Spartacus.

 

We were expecting high emotional content, but we were blown away by the lasting connection made between handlers like Brad, his dog Spartacus, and the people that they comforted after tragedy struck. We found out from our many interviews that, after a tragedy, a bunch of services are deployed, such as fire, ems, police, etc, to help out with the situation. But after the situation is contained, or after a week or so, those services are required to leave. Unfortunately there just aren’t enough servicemen to go around, leaving the impacted citizens on their own again. That isn’t the case with K9FR. They fully understand and appreciate that wounds don’t heal in just a week, and sometimes you need a lot of time with a furry companion to take your mind off things. Because of this, they regularly keep in contact with those who have reached out to them.

We spent a lot of time that week with many fire fighters, who also said having the dogs around is an incredible idea. Sometimes we forget that first responders are people too, and they deal with tough situations every day. No wonder fire houses have a history of Dalmatians!

Connecticut was fantastic, and we filmed a ton of great footage. Now, where to next….?

Duke the Westie

Here at A Connection Film, we love seeing pets become therapy animals! What better way to share the love?

Here’s a special shout out to Duke from the Newmarket area of Ontario, Canada, currently training to be a therapy dog!

Way to go Duke!

We wish him all the best 🙂

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A Whirlwind Week!

The A Connection film team had an incredibly busy week.

Our lovely representative from Therapeutic Paws of Canada, Michele Peddle, took us out to the Bowmanville/Clarington area to hang out and see what she and her dog, Jasmine, do every day!

We first went to Bowmanville Public Library, where we found out that a Paws to Read program takes place. Paws to Read is a fantastic program where school age children practice reading with the therapy dogs (since they are such good listeners!).  There we met Juli and Mica, another all-star TPOC team.

We learned that there is so much demand for the Paws to Read program, Therapeutic Paws of Canada can’t yet keep up! They need more volunteers to be able to provide the service to all the children and parents who want to be a part of it.

Our DP, Francis, watching Paws to Read in action!

Our DP, Francis, watching Paws to Read in action!

After the Bowmanville Public Library, we headed to Holy Family School, to see how the Paws to Read Program affects the students there.

We met Ryan, a 12 year old boy who is Jasmine’s best bud.

Ryan and Jasmine love to be read to, so other students who want to practice their reading come into Ryan’s sunny, quiet room with their favourite book.

Michele helps out with the harder words, and Jasmine patiently awaits her favourite snack, Cheerios.

Ryan, Jasmine, and Michele hang out in Ryan's room, waiting for the next reader to come visit!

Ryan, Jasmine, and Michele hang out in Ryan’s room, waiting for the next reader to come visit!

 

After all that, our poor friend Jasmine was too tuckered out to continue…. so we figured it was a good time to take a nap. More to come!

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