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 spoke with Taylor about her experiences volunteering with her 105 lb Great Pyrenees mix Benji in their local read to a dog program, Paws to Read, through Alliance of Therapy Dogs (ATD). They’ve built on top of this program to offer their own private reading sessions for kids who need more time, which Taylor likes to call Books with Benji. Taylor and Benji are located in Charlotte, North Carolina, and also volunteer in assisted living homes and are hoping to get started with a craft program for children with disabilities.
With a background in vet medicine and a love of psychology, Taylor knew that she was interested in Therapy Dog work as soon as she found out about it from her colleague Kim who’s dog Kovu, a German Shepherd, volunteers in airports and courthouses in addition to being an actor. Once Benji became comfortable with his new life with Taylor, it became clear to Taylor as well as to her colleagues, that he had more love to give than just one person, or even one office, could receive. So after making sure he gave therapy to everyone at their animal hospital, Taylor decided to train him to become a Therapy Dog so that they could begin volunteering together.
While Benji asks for love from everyone he sees, it’s clear to Taylor that he truly enjoys working with the children they see at the library as their energy and willingness to give pets light him up on their visits. Benji isn’t the only one who benefits from these visits; in fact, Taylor actually isn’t sure which one of them enjoys volunteering more but it’s safe to say Benji is always ready for an adventure by her side.
If you’re ready to learn more about Taylor and Benji’s volunteer work, let’s dive in:
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 shares that she’s been with Alliance of Therapy Dogs since December of 2021 and that they’ve visited assisted living homes and libraries where children read to Benji. She also shares that someone recently reached out for them to help with a crafting program for children with disabilities.
- [03:04] Taylor talks about the special bookmarks she made with a painted photo of Benji, his email address, and his Instagram account to share with children to offer private sessions for those who may want or need more time with Benji to finish their book, ask questions, and spend more time with Benji.
- [06:20] Benji came into the animal hospital where Taylor works one day so she volunteered to take him in. She shares that he became part of the hospital’s family and has offered therapy to everyone there.
- [06:48] Taylor gives us the full breakdown of Benji’s breeds including Great Pyrenees, Bulgarian Shepherd, Myrames Shepherd, and Commodore which bring him to weighing in around 105 lbs.
- [07:46] Benji sits or lays down while with the children while Taylor touches his head and feet to help children see that they don’t need to feel intimidated around him. Sometimes she has them pet his tail first if they’re too nervous.
- [08:37] Taylor shares how Alliance of Therapy Dogs sends out an email lettings members know that someone reached out looking for a Therapy Dog which is how they’ve connected with the reading program as well as.
- [09:10] The read to a dog library program that Taylor and Benji volunteer with is Paws to Read but Taylor likes to refer to their work as Books with Benji.
- [10:02] Taylor has also found out about opportunities to help out at Amazon warehouses around Charlotte as well as helping a high schooler with their class project. She wanted to help out a children’s hospital but hasn’t been able to yet.
- [10:34] Taylor reached out to assisted living centers on her own and recommends working with the Activities Director so that they can introduce you to the residents.
- [11:37] Taylor found out about Therapy Dogs from a girl she used to work with who had a Therapy Dog named Kovu who volunteered at the airport as well as the courthouse in addition to being an actor.
- [12:24] Once Benji broke out of his shell, Taylor realized that he’s always calm, relaxed, and loves people. Everyone she worked with recommended that she trained him to become a Therapy Dog since he could never get enough love from those around him and was always seeking out additional attention.
- [14:00] Taylor think that Benji enjoys working with the chidren the most because they enjoy petting him and being active with him.
- [15:14] It surprised Taylor to see how well children and Benji adapated to sessions together as well as how easy it is to volunteer with him at the library and how much free range they have together in that enviornment.
- [16:05] Watching kids as their reading improves reminds Taylor of how grateful she is that she has learned how to read.
- [17:06] Taylor really enjoys meeting different people while volunteering and hearing the stories that kids always have to share with her about their own animals as well as seeing how they can brighten someone’s day in any enviornment.
- [18:08] If you’re looking to become a pet therapy team, Taylor recommends deciding on what type of visits you want to do and then look at where you can go depending on the program that you decide to go through. She always recommends to expose your dog to the demographic you want to work with before volunteering with them.
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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