#090: Training a School Therapy Dog with Christie and Frankie

by | July 3, 2023 | Therapy Dog Talk

Therapy Dog Talk - Christie + Frankie

How Christie’s Golden Retriever Frankie became the first School Therapy Dog in their district.

In this 90th episode of Therapy Dog Talk, I talk with Christie about her journey to bringing her son’s Golden Retriever, Frankie, to work with her as the district’s first School Therapy Dog.

Christie’s story begins with a casual introduction to the world of Therapy Dogs through their local 4-H club, which led them to becoming a certified Therapy Dog team through Alliance of Therapy Dogs.

Along the way, Frankie didn’t just secure his Canine Good Citizen certification; he gained confidence, and that’s what truly mattered. From shyness to shining in his role, his transformation is a testament to the power of patience, training, and a little bit of canine grit.

Frankie’s impact extends well beyond their home. Whether it’s his regular Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday visits to Christie’s junior high school or their visits to an assisted living facility and a nursing home, Frankie brings positivity wherever he goes. When Christie describes how Frankie has become a beloved member of their school community, you can’t help but feel a surge of affection for this Golden Retriever.

Christie also shares invaluable insights into recognizing when your Therapy Dog needs a break, and her advice on taking things slowly and listening to your dog’s needs is a crucial takeaway for all prospective Therapy Dog handlers out there.

One of my favorite moments from our conversation was hearing about how Christie and Frankie navigated the approval process to introduce Frankie as their district’s first Therapy Dog. Her dedication in gathering evidence on the benefits of Therapy Dogs and the role of organizations like the Alliance of Therapy Dogs in facilitating this process is simply inspiring.

After listening to this episode, I bet you’ll have a newfound appreciation for the work Therapy Dogs and their handlers do, and perhaps, a desire to explore this path yourself. And remember, as Christie says, it’s about taking things slowly, paying attention to your dog’s reactions, and most importantly, listening to their needs.

In this episode, we discuss …

  • What it took to bring Frankie to work as the first School Therapy Dog in their district.
  • How Christie’s son Cash hopes to become a Junior Therapy Dog Handler.
  • Why it’s important to advocate for your dog and how doing so can help others.

Key moments you won’t want to miss:

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

  • [00:03:41] Christie details the training journey they undertook with Frankie, who eventually got his Canine Good Citizen certification.
  • [00:04:26] Christie shares that Frankie goes to her junior high school with her on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Friday afternoons, making a positive impact on students and staff.
  • [00:04:48] Christie discusses the process of getting approval for Frankie to come to the school as their district’s first Therapy Dog, highlighting the need for Therapy Dogs in schools post-COVID.
  • [00:06:23] Christie shares where she researched the benefits of Therapy Dogs in schools, including local schools, google, counselors, and the Alliance of Therapy Dogs.
  • [00:08:27] Aside from school, Christie and Frankie also visit an assisted living facility and a nursing home in their area, providing a meaningful connection to the community.
  • [00:09:03] Christie provides a detailed breakdown of Frankie’s school day, highlighting his interactions with students and staff and how he’s become a beloved member of their school community.
  • [00:10:34] Christie shares that Frankie initially struggled with shyness during the Therapy Dog certification process, but eventually became more comfortable with the process through repeated training.
  • [00:12:14] Christie explains how she can tell when Frankie needs a break during his therapy work, either through his facial expressions or behavioral cues, at which point they take a break.
  • [00:13:43] Christie describes heartwarming instances of her therapy work, including young students drawing pictures for Frankie and a student who found comfort in Frankie’s presence during a personal loss.
  • [00:16:29] Christie offers advice for anyone interested in Therapy Dog work, suggesting they take things slowly, pay attention to their dog’s reactions, and listen to their dog’s needs.

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.

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