#096: Kim Fontaine and her Akita Therapy Dogs

by | August 14, 2023 | Therapy Dog Talk

Therapy Dog Talk - Kim + Tomo

Kim Fontaine, President of AATSMA, advocates for unique breeds like her Akita Therapy Dogs.

In this 96th episode of Therapy Dog Talk, I sit down with Kim Fontaine, the founder and president of Animal Assisted Therapy Services of Massachusetts (AATSMA). Kim’s journey with her Akitas, Tomo and Toshi, provides a unique perspective on Therapy Dog work.

Kim’s choice to work with Akitas in therapy settings is a testament to her belief in the potential of all dog breeds. Her experience with Tomo and Toshi disproves common misconceptions about Akitas and highlights their capabilities as compassionate and effective Therapy Dogs.

Throughout our talk, Kim emphasizes the necessity of respecting Therapy Dogs’ personal boundaries. It’s a crucial reminder that, despite their training and friendly demeanor, these dogs deserve the same consideration and respect we give to human professionals in caregiving roles.

Kim shares insights into the training regime at Animal Assisted Therapy Services of Massachusetts. This program is characterized by its emphasis on ongoing education and adaptation, ensuring that Therapy Dogs like Tomo and Toshi are well-prepared for the diverse challenges they face in their roles.

Kim also delves into the founding of her organization, detailing the journey and the motivations behind her decision to create a Therapy Dog program. She explains the structure of her program, which includes not only training for the dogs but also education and support for the handlers, creating a well-rounded approach to Animal-Assisted Therapy.

For more about Kim and her remarkable work with Tomo and Toshi, be sure to check out their activities and updates at @aatsmaorg

In this episode, we discuss …

  • The path Kim has taken to incorporate Akitas into her Therapy Dog program.
  • The importance of respecting Therapy Dogs and understanding their professional role.
  • The details of the training and education process at Animal Assisted Therapy Services of Massachusetts.

Key moments you won’t want to miss:

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

  • [00:01:01] Kim introduces herself and her American Akita, Tomo, explaining Tomo’s name meaning and her role as President of Animal Assisted Therapy Services of Massachusetts. 
  • [00:01:26] Kim discusses Akitas as unique Therapy Dogs, emphasizing the importance of reputable breeding and socialization training. 
  • [00:03:04] Kim shares her history with Therapy Dogs, starting at age 12, her dog trainer certification, and the beginning of her organization in Massachusetts. 
  • [00:04:31] Kim explains what she looks for in Therapy Dogs, highlighting the value of both common and unique dog breeds in therapy work. 
  • [00:07:00] Kim recalls her first experience with a Therapy Dog as a child and discusses the expansion of therapy dog work, including her nonprofit’s efforts in schools and prisons. 
  • [00:09:04] Kim shares a story about her organization’s mission to Washington D.C. for an event involving a Capitol police officer. 
  • [00:10:22] Kim offers advice for those interested in becoming a Therapy Dog team, focusing on finding a good training organization and understanding insurance aspects. 
  • [00:15:20] Kim details unique training and testing procedures for Therapy Dogs in her organization, emphasizing continuous training.
  • [00:19:31] Kim shares her daily schedule, including visits to a prison, hospice clients, and a residential school, showcasing the versatility of Therapy Dog work.
  • [00:22:20] Kim talks about training another rescue dog, focusing on the importance of the dog’s inherent nature and nurture, and using her experiences to educate others about different dog backgrounds.

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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