Taylor helps children grow their confidence to read out loud with her Therapy Dog experience Books with Benji.
In this 47th episode of Therapy Dog Talk, I chat with Taylor and her 105 lb Great Pyrenees mix, Benji, about their amazing volunteer work with the Alliance of Therapy Dogs in North Carolina. We focus on their participation in the Paws to Read program and their own unique reading sessions called Books with Benji.
Taylor shares how she discovered therapy dog work through her colleague Kim’s dog, Kovu, and knew that Benji’s loving nature made him the perfect fit. With a background in veterinary medicine and psychology, Taylor was eager to help children grow their confidence in reading out loud through Books with Benji.
Throughout our conversation, we discuss Taylor and Benji’s experiences at assisted living homes and libraries, as well as their plans to volunteer with a crafting program for children with disabilities. Taylor also shares tips for helping children feel comfortable around Benji’s large size and how she connects with different volunteer opportunities through the Alliance of Therapy Dogs.
We delve into the importance of building strong relationships with the people they visit and how much joy Taylor and Benji get from working with children. Towards the end of our chat, Taylor offers valuable advice for those considering becoming a pet therapy team, emphasizing the need to expose your dog to the demographic you want to work with before volunteering.
After listening to this episode, you’ll gain a deeper appreciation for the joys and challenges of volunteering with a therapy dog, along with helpful insights on preparing your furry friend for this fulfilling work.
In this episode, we discuss …
- Where Taylor found Benji and volunteered to rescue him.
- What Taylor does to help children who feel intimidated by Benji’s size.
- Where Taylor finds opportunities to volunteer with Benji.
Key moments you won’t want to miss:
- [01:28] Taylor has been with Alliance of Therapy Dogs since 2021 and visits assisted living homes and libraries with Benji. They plan to help with a crafting program for children with disabilities soon.
- [03:04] Taylor creates special bookmarks featuring Benji’s picture, email, and Instagram to offer private reading sessions for kids who need more time with him.
- [06:20] Taylor took Benji in when he came to her animal hospital. He quickly became part of the family, offering therapy to everyone there.
- [06:48] Benji’s mixed breed includes Great Pyrenees, Bulgarian Shepherd, Myrames Shepherd, and Commodore, which contribute to his 105 lb size.
- [07:46] To help children feel less intimidated, Taylor touches Benji’s head and feet during sessions, and sometimes has kids pet his tail first.
- [08:37] Alliance of Therapy Dogs emails members about therapy dog requests, which is how Taylor connects with various volunteer opportunities.
- [09:10] Taylor and Benji volunteer with the Paws to Read program, but she prefers to call their work Books with Benji.
- [10:02] Taylor has discovered opportunities at Amazon warehouses, helping high school students, and hopes to volunteer at a children’s hospital in the future.
- [10:34] Taylor recommends working with Activities Directors at assisted living centers to get introduced to residents and create meaningful connections.
- [18:08] For those considering becoming a pet therapy team, Taylor advises deciding on visit types and exposing your dog to the target demographic before volunteering.
I hope you enjoy this episode as much as I do. Give it a watch or a listen and then let me know in the community which part you found the most helpful!
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