#094: Dog therapy in Lithuania with Ugnė and Kuna

by | July 31, 2023 | Therapy Dog Talk

Therapy Dog Talk - Ugne + Kuna

Ugnė and Kuna volunteer as a dog therapy team in Lithuania helping elementary kids and seniors.

In this 94th episode of Therapy Dog Talk, I sat down with Ugnė and her amazing rescue dog, Kuna, about their volunteer therapy work in Vilnius, Lithuania through Kaniterapijos asociacija. Ugnė tells us how she transformed Kuna from a reactive shelter pup into a certified Therapy Dog in 2022, ready to bring joy and comfort to those in need with a personal motto of “giving smiles to the ones who need it most.”

Throughout the episode, Ugnė shares what it’s like doing Therapy Dog work in Lithuania including their experiences volunteering at a boarding school for children with mental health challenges, and how Kuna’s visits helped to calm and delight the students. We learn about the special training and preparation that went into making Kuna the Therapy Dog she is today, highlighting the commitment and patience required to undertake such a rewarding journey.

Ugnė also shares the challenges they faced, including managing Kuna’s reactivity to other dogs and the importance of ensuring Kuna’s comfort during their visits. We delve into the various activities Kuna participates in, like navigating labyrinths with seniors and hula hooping with kids, showcasing the creative ways therapy dogs can engage with people of all ages.

As we wrap up, Ugnė offers heartfelt advice to anyone considering therapy dog work, emphasizing that anyone can make a difference, no matter their background. She encourages those interested to just go for it and start making connections within their community.

By the end of our talk, you’ll not only have a better grasp of what it takes to be a Therapy Dog team but also the beautiful impact such work can have on both the volunteers and those they serve. Ugnė and Kuna’s story is truly inspiring, and it’s a joy to hear about the smiles they bring to faces in Lithuania.

In this episode, we discuss …

  • How Ugnė’s journey with Kuna began with tackling Kuna’s reactivity to other dogs, a challenge they overcame together.
  • The significant and varied impacts that therapy dogs like Kuna can have, from bringing calmness to children to providing comfort to seniors.
  • How anyone can become involved in Therapy Dog volunteering regardless of their professional background.

Key moments you won’t want to miss:

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

  • [00:00:59] Ugnė introduces herself and Kuna, her certified Therapy Dog, and mentions they’ve just passed their recertification exam for another two years of therapy work.
  • [00:01:41] Ugnė explains how she got into therapy dog work after adopting Kuna from the shelter, overcoming Kuna’s initial reactivity to other dogs.
  • [00:03:21] It’s revealed that therapy dogs are not common in Lithuania, with only about seven certified dogs in the capital, showing the pioneering nature of Ugne’s work.
  • [00:03:49] Ugnė discusses the certification process through a dog therapy association that’s part of the IAHAIO, an international organization setting the standards for therapy dog work.
  • [00:04:32] The extensive training for the therapy dog exam is detailed, including the range of obedience tasks and socialization efforts to prepare Kuna.
  • [00:05:54] Ugnė shares the types of volunteer work they do, including visiting a boarding school for children with mental illnesses and how Kuna’s visits have calmed the students.
  • [00:08:51] Creative activities like making a snack labyrinth for seniors and using hula hoops with children are mentioned, showing how Ugnė and Kuna engage in interactive and beneficial play.
  • [00:10:54] Ugnė describes Kuna’s favorite ways to relax after volunteering, highlighting the balance between work and downtime for therapy dogs.
  • [00:12:11] Ugnė expresses surprise at how quickly Kuna learned new things, which speaks to Kuna’s intelligence and potential, showcasing the transformative journey they’ve been on and reinforcing the theme of overcoming challenges for a greater cause.
  • [00:14:52] Ugnė offers advice to those considering therapy dog volunteering, emphasizing that anyone can contribute, and encourages taking the first step to get involved.

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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