#098: Brian and Riley on Finding a Therapy Dog Organization

by | August 27, 2023 | Therapy Dog Talk

Therapy Dog Talk - Brian + Riley

Brian knows the importance of finding a Therapy Dog organization that aligns with his lifestyle.

In this 98th episode of Therapy Dog Talk, I chat with Brian about his journey with Riley, a Labrador-German Shepherd mix, from foster fail to heart dog and Therapy Dog. Together they are certified through Alliance of Therapy Dogs and volunteer at their local Ronald McDonald House and on the DEN CATS airport therapy animal team.

Here’s a sneak peek of what you’ll hear:

Choosing a Therapy Dog organization: Brian discusses the important task of selecting a Therapy Dog organization that was a good fit for both him and Riley. One of the key factors in their decision was Riley’s diet – he is fed raw food, which not all organizations are comfortable with. Brian emphasizes the need to choose an organization that not only meets their logistical needs but also aligns with their approach to dog care and well-being. This step in their journey underlines how crucial it is for both the Therapy Dog and the handler to find an environment where they can both thrive.

A Strong Human-Animal Bond: Brian describes how his deep bond with Riley played a significant role in making important decisions. This strong connection between them was more than just emotional; it helped Brian understand Riley better, allowing him to identify the kinds of environments and organizations that would suit Riley’s personality and abilities. Recognizing Riley’s characteristics, like his calm demeanor and ability to connect with people, was essential in finding the right places for them to volunteer.

Adapting to Volunteer Environments: Brian shares how they had to be flexible in choosing volunteering opportunities. Initially, Brian had certain types of volunteer work in mind, but as he got to know Riley’s preferences and strengths, he realized they needed to explore different options. They eventually found rewarding roles in places like the Ronald McDonald House, where Riley’s calming presence was a great fit, and at the airport, where Riley’s friendly nature could shine. This part of their journey shows how being open to different possibilities led them to discover the best settings for Riley’s therapy work.

You’re really going to appreciate the depth and practicality in this episode. Brian’s journey with Riley is not only enlightening but also filled with meaningful insights. For anyone who’s a fan of dogs, interested in the world of Therapy Dog work, or just enjoys a compelling story of companionship and perseverance, this episode is a must-hear.

Be sure to follow Brian and Riley’s ongoing adventures on Instagram at @casa_de_shepherd. If you’re thinking about volunteering as a Therapy Dog team, their story could help you think about where to get started!

So, give it a listen, gain some valuable knowledge, and who knows – you might end up looking at your own dog and pondering, “Could we embark on a journey like Brian and Riley’s?”

In this episode, we discuss …

  • Brian’s search for a Therapy Dog group that accepted Riley’s raw food diet.
  • How Brian’s close relationship with Riley helped them choose the right therapy work.
  • Brian’s willingness to try different volunteering places to find the best fit for Riley.

Key moments you won’t want to miss:

Note that the timecodes match the video, not the podcast.

  • [00:00:47] Meet Brian and Riley: Brian introduces his dog Riley, a Lab and German Shepherd mix, and shares his backstory of being rescued from Texas with no one interested in adopting him until Brian stepped in. 
  • [00:02:39] Foster to Forever: Brian tells the story of fostering Riley after his training and how he eventually decided to adopt him, making Riley a permanent part of his family. 
  • [00:03:10] Brian’s Volunteering Leads to Adoption: Despite not looking for a third dog, Brian’s volunteering at the rescue leads him to adopt Riley, who quickly becomes a favorite. 
  • [00:04:03] Inspiration to Volunteer: Brian discusses how he was inspired to get involved in therapy dog work after following stories from another podcast guest, Cathy Bennett. 
  • [00:05:59] Riley’s Temperament for Therapy: After passing the AKC Good Citizen test, an evaluator recognizes Riley’s natural ability to work as a Therapy Dog due to his comfort with strangers. 
  • [00:07:24] Beginning Therapy Work: Brian shares how he and Riley began their volunteer work at Ronald McDonald House and the airport, offering support to many. 
  • [00:08:12] Matching Activities to Riley’s Personality: Brian explains how he discovered the types of volunteer work that suit Riley best, finding that Riley thrives in the busy airport environment. 
  • [00:10:27] Challenges with Therapy Dog Standards: Brian speaks on the unexpected opposition he faced due to Riley being raw-fed and how he navigated these challenges. 
  • [00:14:45] Finding an Accepting Organization: Brian recounts his search for a Therapy Dog organization that would accept Riley’s raw-fed diet, ultimately partnering with Alliance of Therapy Dogs. 
  • [00:17:14] The Joy of Therapy Dog Work: Brian expresses his appreciation for the work he does with Riley and encourages others who are considering therapy dog work to pursue it despite any challenges.

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!

Mentioned in this episode:

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Therapy Dog Talk is a podcast where I interview a different team each week via Instagram Live. If you enjoyed this episode please find us over at Apple, Google, or Spotify and give us a follow after you leave a review.

Do you know someone who would make a great guest? Be sure to reach out and let me know.

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