Monica and her Dalmatian Therapy Dogs are making an impact relieving stress for passengers at their local airport.

In this 45th episode of Therapy Dog Talk, I spoke with Monica about volunteering with her Dalmatian Therapy Dogs Quint and Orio as well as her experiences as a Tester/Observer for Alliance of Therapy Dogs (ATD) and what it was like to start up P.E.T.S.—the airport Therapy Dog program in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Monica has also been on the ATD board since 2017 where she is currently involved in the Grievance and Ethics committee as we well as Social Media and Public Relations.

With a house full of five dogs, Monica already has a lot on her plate but she has been passionate about dogs for as long as she can remember and is now passing that on to her daughter who is currently training their youngest dog Hip Hop in hopes that they can volunteer together as a Junior Handler team when she turns 12. Monica and her husband currently volunteer together with their Dalmatian Therapy Dogs Quint and Orio and have had two other Dalmatian partners in the past—Delta, now over the rainbow bridge, and Doc, now retired.

As you can imagine, Monica has quite a bit to share about what she’s observed in her own dogs as well as in those she’s encountered while volunteering as a T/O and alongside the rest of the P.E.T.S. Ambassadors—comprised of soon-to-be seven dogs with a variety of breeds from Dalmatians and Golden Retrievers to a Yorkie and a Pekingese who, according to Monica, is very good at her job.

You won’t want to miss Monica’s drive to get involved in pet therapy, so let’s dive in:

In this episode, we discuss …

  • Why Monica became a Tester/Observer for Alliance of Therapy Dogs.
  • How she founded the Therapy Dog program at Myrtle Beach Airport.
  • What she’s learned over the years about volunteering with multiple Dalmatian Therapy Dogs.

Key moments you won’t want to miss:

  • [01:24] Monica introduces us to her five dogs from the eldest, a retired Dalmatian Therapy Dog named Doc, to the 8-month-old Windspirte puppy, and prospect, Hip Hop.
  • [02:59] When Monica brought Doc home, she found a trainer an hour away who happened to have experience in Therapy Dogs and introduced her to the work, mentored her, and ultimately recruited her for the ATD board.
  • [05:12] Monica talks about what she saw in Doc that made her think he would be a good fit for Therapy Dog work as well as what behaviors she saw that led her to retiring him early.
  • [06:52] Monica’s daughter begged to keep one of Disco’s puppies so they kept Hip Hop with the goal of them becoming a Junior Handler team together when she turns 12.
  • [07:23] Monica talks about how she rescued Quint from a puppy mill as he is deaf and was to be euthanized.
  • [08:14] What it has been like to watch Hip Hop learn and grow from day one and his nervousness that developed around people at 9-10 weeks old. Monica made sure he gave consent to meet people rather than pushing him into those interactions. She believes this helped to rebuild his confidence and trust in their relationship.
  • [09:54] When Monica’s mentor Lori moved to Utah, she decided to become a Tester/Observer (T/O) to keep ATD growing in the Cleveland area where they lived at the time.
  • [10:52] If you’re interested in getting started as a Therapy Dog team, Monica recommends to shadow someone while they volunteer or to observe a T/O while they’re evaluating other teams.
  • [12:02] Monica talks about how Lori told her to apply to the ATD board and how the opportunity to make a difference and guide the organization through growth while maintaining relationships with members.
  • [13:24] This year Monica is on the Grievance and Ethics committee and shares how she views it as a way to share knowledge with members and help to keep them safe rather than getting them in trouble. She is also on the social media and public relations committee where she runs Instagram and manages interactions with conferences.
  • [14:48] Monica shares her experience in founding the P.E.T.S. program at the Myrtle Beach Airport and how it differed from when she tried to start an airport program while in Cleveland.
  • [18:34] What Monica has learned and observed over the years in volunteering with multiple Dalmatian Therapy Dogs and how some breeds need consistent exposure to pet therapy work to stay comfortable with it.

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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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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