Kenzie has a heart for Animal-Assisted Therapy and is implementing her Goldendoodle Kopa in her social work.

In this 40th episode of Therapy Dog Talk, I spoke with Kenzie about her experience in learning what it takes to implement Animal-Assisted Therapy into her work as a social worker as well as her experience training her Goldendoodle Kopa who is now a registered Therapy Dog through Pet Partners. While Kenzie has always loved dogs, it wasn’t until later that she learned the differences between Emotional Support Animals, Service Dogs, and Therapy Dogs. Since then she has received a Masters in Social Work with a certificate in Animal-Assisted Social Work which she is putting to use by implementing Animal-Assisted Therapy at the clinic where she works and partners with Kopa to reach their clients in a different way than she could on her own. We spent quite a bit of time talking about what we’ve learned through our respective programs for mental health professionals, what the training and evaluation is like with Pet Partners, how she helps Kopa to build his confidence, and how she knew that Kopa was the right dog for her to embark on this journey together. If you’re ready to hear about Kenzie and Kopa’s experience so far, let’s dive in:

In this episode, we discuss …

  • The differences between two Animal-Assisted Therapy programs for mental health professionals.
  • What the Pet Partners training and evaluation experience was like for them.
  • How Kenzie has helped Kopa to build his confidence with inanimate objects.


Key moments you won’t want to miss:

  • [01:21] Kenzie and I reminisce about meeting on Instagram through a Therapy Dog chat started by Adele.
  • [02:33] Kenzie introduces herself and her pandemic puppy Kopa who recently passed his Therapy Dog test.
  • [03:27] What it was like to evaluate through Pet Partners with Kopa and their focus on both handler and dog.
  • [05:15] Why Kenzie decided to register Kopa through Pet Partners even though their liability policy does not cover professional work and how she plans to address that gap.
  • [06:31] How Kenzie’s lifelong love of dogs led her to an Animal-Assisted Social Work certificate at the University of Denver and how that has been helpful in creating policies at her clinic.
  • [08:22] We discuss the growing traction in Animal-Assisted Therapy due to accelerated research in recent years.
  • [08:58] Kenzie discusses considerations for professional settings versus volunteer settings and liability limits.
  • [10:28] The importance of advocating for your animal and making sure that they enjoy doing the work.
  • [11:28] We briefly discuss interventions and I share a bit about the Animal-Assisted Counseling Academy.
  • [12:46] I acknowledge those who have been working in Animal-Assisted Therapy since before it was well-known.
  • [13:06] Kenzie shares about her program and how it was more research-based and didn’t focus on interventions.
  • [14:04] We briefly mention learning about client-animal interactions through Pet Partners.
  • [14:31] Kenzie shares what she was looking for in a Therapy Dog when she found Kopa, her Goldendoodle.
  • [16:06] Kopa has always loved people but has needed to build confidence around inanimate objects.
  • [17:14] Kenzie shares that she will be constantly assessing if Kopa enjoys the work and will stop when he doesn’t and we discuss the importance of animal welfare and partnering with your animal rather than “using” them.
  • [18:52] How agility, hiking and new experiences have helped to build Kopa’s confidence.
  • [20:53] How Kopa, Swahili for “heart”, was named after Simba’s son in The Lion King book.
  • [22:52] Kenzie’s goal for Kopa to open a different pathway for healing that people haven’t had access to before.
  • [23:48] Kenzie’s advice to focus on your relationship with your dog to know if they will enjoy the work.
  • [24:01] The in-person experience of training through Pet Partners and how she found it helpful.
I hope you enjoy this episode as much as I do. Give it a listen and let me know which part you found the most helpful!

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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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