Audrey & Lola
Wow, what a journey this has been! Lola and I met 3 ½ years ago when I went to adopt a puppy I had picked out at the local animal shelter. When I got there, I happened to run into one of the animal control officers and mentioned I was there for the little yellow lab puppy. He looked stricken and said, “Someone just came and adopted that puppy not even an hour ago.” He could tell I was upset and as I turned back to my car, he stopped me and said, “Now, don’t leave. Go on in there and pick you out one of those babies and take it home. I won’t even charge you a fee. Go on, now.” He seemed as upset as I was so I figured what could it hurt?
Carolyn & Jax
During training classes, I met a friend who was training her dog to be a therapy dog and introduced me to MSTD. I also knew that whenever I would take Jax out, he would seek out the attention of others and would nudge them in encouragement to pet him. He was telling me how much he loved people! With Jax’s love for people, I thought he might have what it takes to be a therapy dog! My interest peaked and we haven’t turned back since!
We quickly learned that becoming a therapy dog would not be an overnight process, but were willing to do whatever it takes so we could bring lots of smiles to others in our community! We learned that our first step would be to pass the AKC’s Canine Good Citizens (CGC) Test. Jax and I began learning the skills needed to pass the test by attending classes and practicing at home. We successfully passed the CGC in January of 2014.
Once we passed the CGC, we were able to enroll in the Mid-South Therapy’s training program. We attended 4 classes, where we learned everything from detailed handling of our dog to policy and procedures. We obtained invaluable feedback from Mary and Debb who were there to support us each step of the way. In addition, we continued to attend weekly therapy classes at Dogwood, practiced daily at home and scheduled outings around town to meet people and get used to new environments.
We were excited when we passed our evaluation test in June 2014 are thrilled to begin visiting! In order to prepare for visiting, our next step was to do a “shadow visit” with another team. I accompanied another team on their visit and saw what a visit should look like. We visited patients in an open training area as well as hospital rooms. By joining a team on their visit, I was able to see how all the things I learned in training were put into practice.
Jax and I were now ready to make our first visit. We visited a wonderful group of Alzheimer’s patients. Again, I quickly saw all of our training put into play. And, boy did it. Even some of the funnier scenarios you think might not happen, actually happened! MTSD’s thorough training program was definitely a recipe for our success.
Visit preparation was also crucial for enabling us to fully enjoy the experience we were about to have. Jax loved all the attention and was great with the patients! We loved talking with the patients and watching the smiles on their faces when they were touching Jax! It was such an awesome experience words can almost not describe it. We left feeling so good, we can’t wait for our next visit!
Working as a registered therapy team and sharing with others is such a special experience. We are so happy to be part of this wonderful organization that gives so much to our community.
San & Ranger
There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s been difficult to learn how to harness all that energy and channel it into appropriate behavior for a Therapy Dog. We took lots of classes from Donna Eddins at Dogwoods, and had lots of moral support from MSTD members and other aspiring members, and finally passed the Evaluation on our second try. My dog is awesome, and I can’t wait to share his wonderful personality with new friends when we start making visits!
Robin & Corky
Jennifer & Jack
Twenty years ago I used to work at a children’s hospital in Salt Lake City, UT. I would walk past patient’s rooms to get to my office and I would see the kids and their parents trying to cope during this difficult time. I knew at that time, in some capacity, I wanted to volunteer in a healthcare setting. Little did I know, years later I would be volunteering as a team and my teammate would be my dog.
My journey to becoming a team with Mid-South Therapy Dogs begins on a sad note. In May of 2011, we lost our family's best friend, a ten-year-old, Golden Retriever named Baxter. Hoping to fill our empty hearts and home, we start looking for reputable Golden Retriever breeders in the TN/MS area. After several attempts of trying to find a Golden Retriever puppy, we were referred to a breeder named Debb. We contacted Debb and she told us not all of her puppies had permanent homes yet and if we filled out her online questionnaire, she would put us on the list. After filling out our questionnaire, Debb contacted us to see if she could come visit us just to make sure one of her puppies was going to a great home. The day of our visit arrived and this is when we met Debb. She brought with her two of her therapy dogs, Piper and Boomer. During our visit, Debb asked if I would be interested in working with our new puppy to become a therapy dog. I knew right then this was my opportunity to start volunteering.
In September of 2011, we brought home our new puppy named Jack. Once Jack was old enough, we enrolled in Dogwoods for Dogs puppy classes to begin our education and met Donna, who has been so helpful throughout our training. Jack and I worked hard together, advanced in our classes and the following year Jack was ready to take the CGC test. After we passed, our next step was to attend the MTSD Workshop. After completing the workshop, I just felt Jack was not quite ready for the test. In reality, it was me who was not ready. We continued working with Donna and even had a few practice sessions with Mary and Debb.
The next test date was scheduled and Mary and Debb both thought we should see how well Jack and I would do. I was so nervous. I went over everything that I had been taught and we proceeded with the test. Sadly, we did not pass this time, but I now knew the skills that Jack and I needed to focus on. I was not going to give up on my team. The next test date was set for March and this time Jack and I passed. I know we are just a new team, but seeing myself accomplish this with my furry teammate has been a rewarding experience. Becoming a therapy team with MSTD is not easy, but there are so many great people involved with this endeavor, who are always more than willing to help out in some capacity. If you are truly dedicated to becoming a team, there is no reason that you will not succeed with the amount of support that is offered.
Pam & Sunny
When we moved to Memphis and I learned about Mid South Therapy Dogs & Friends, I knew that was what I wanted for Sunny and I. We started the process right away attending obedience classes at Dog Woods. Sunny did very well so I felt confident moving forward. As we continued with obedience classes, we attended the seminar, therapy workshops and 3 of the therapy skills classes. The workshops and classes were very informative and helpful. It made me feel ready and confident that we would pass.
What I wasn’t prepared for were my nerves. I was my own worst enemy. On the day of the test, I got myself so worked up on my way to the testing sight, that I wasn’t thinking straight. Instead of taking time to think about Sunny’s needs, I walked straight in and said that we were ready - even after the evaluators asked me if I would like to take Sunny out to try and give her a chance to go potty. Needless to say just as we began the test, Sunny went to the bathroom.
I was devastated and so upset with myself. Everyone was so kind through it all which I appreciated. An Evaluator called a couple days later and we talked about the test and taking it again. I told her I was sad that I had to wait for the next scheduled test. Before I knew it, this evaluator had located a testing sight in Little Rock, AR and received permission from them for Sunny and I to test there. I was thrilled and so appreciative. As Sunny and I drove there the day of the test, I felt great. I knew we were prepared and my nerves were under control. I had all the confidence that Sunny and I would pass. And we did!! And we were rated COMPLEX.
Sunny and I are now visiting facilities and loving it. To walk into different facilities and watch smiles appear on the faces of patients and staff makes everything we went through worth it. I am so excited to be apart of this wonderful organization.
Jill & Breeze
Such a new, exciting, challenging and ongoing journey!!! My first therapy partner, Rumba, joined our household as a mature and perfect dog. Around Rumba’s 9th birthday, we decided it was time for a second dog. Breeze was born in February 2012, from a long line of therapy dogs. Her mother Paislee, grandmother Mazie, and many other relatives are active therapy dogs with MSTD. It was definitely a new experience for me to know from her first day on this planet, this little yellow creature would someday be making a difference in our world. We brought her home at 8 weeks with every expectation of her living up to her lineage.
Jill & Rumba
Success in this program begins with patience. If you are like me, you are gung ho to become a registered team as soon as possible, so you can start your visits right away. However, for Rumba and me, it took an entire year! Just remember that your life is going to present challenges and priorities that may delay your progress. And if you first don’t succeed, PLEASE try, try and try again! I attended my first introductory Seminar with Mid South Therapy Dogs in September of 2010. I learned that the standards were high, the process very involved, but one look at the teams in action and I was hooked! Due to some prior commitments, we were unable to sign up for the next Team Workshop, and thus waited for the Workshop that began in January 2011. MSTD supported us with advice and pre-requisites, so we used that time to complete Obedience and our Canine Good Citizen. We would test in March 2011.
Rumba is a rock star. She has always done everything I’ve ever asked her and excels in obedience. Imagine my surprise when one of the required Aptitude exercises gave us trouble! It was the “restraining hug”. Rumba simply didn’t understand what I wanted from her and I didn’t know how to tell her. Happy noises and people on the ground at her level meant play time, so she became confused when I asked her to be still. This was first evident only a couple of weeks before the evaluation, so I worked on it, but knew we were only about 50/50 on this one particular, but important aspect of the test. Not to mention, the evaluation takes place in a new environment. You can’t help but be nervous and your partner will read your energy. Sure enough, during the evaluation, she passed all the skills with flying colors, but wiggled right out of that hug. All of the MSTD volunteers at the evaluation were SO encouraging to us to stick with it. Everyone in the organization wants you to pass and will help you if you are having trouble! We scheduled some time with Donna at Dogwoods to work on that hug (more for me than for Rumba) and planned to retest in June. A few days before that evaluation, a family crisis occurred. Life just got in the way and we rescheduled to test in September. I consulted with Mary before the evaluation and we agreed that our best chance at success was to change Rumba’s equipment to the gentle leader she had been trained in early in life to be a service dog. It’s her “work clothes” and she is always rock solid in every task while wearing it, even if she appears to lose some of her wonderful wiggly personality! Rumba and I passed our second evaluation in September 2011, almost a year to the day after my introductory seminar. It was then another month of waiting on credentials before our first visit occurred…but let me tell you…it was every bit worth the wait! Every visit is even more rewarding than I ever imagined possible. I am so proud of Rumba and that we are part of such an amazing organization.
Have patience, persevere and ask for help when you need it. Figure out what works for your team, but listen closely to the requirements and make sure you know exactly what is expected of your team in the evaluation. Everything that is being communicated to you along your journey is with purpose, understanding and experience. Listen, watch and learn! Your MSTD leaders and local training resources have all of the tools necessary to help your team succeed. Good luck!
Lesley & Bella & Bailey
I moved to Memphis 41/2 years ago from Birmingham AL. where I had volunteered with another organization for three years. I was so happy when I found Mid South Therapy Dogs on line, and even more thrilled to discover that one of the Directors bred Golden Retrievers, specifically for Therapy work. I had just lost my Golden, Winnie. Which made my move to Memphis even more lonely. Over the months I kept in touch with Debb until some puppies became available, (about eight months after moving) I got Bella, my beautiful dark bundle of trouble! We started straight away with Donna's Dogwood classes for obedience and CGC. We did pretty well. Bella new all her commands and loved working with me. We then started the training classes and workshops for MSTD. Wake up time!!! Bella adores people............too much, and that was the problem. Everybody was her best friend and there to play with her. If you got down on the floor, you were fair game ( I blame my husband for that, he would come home from work and start tussling with her).
I thought we would do ok in the test, as I had a "Complex" status back in Birmingham with Winnie, I thought we were ready. Well Bella was not Winnie and she thought the test was party time, while I was shaking in my shoes, my knees literally knocking together, Bella was having fun. Needless to say we scored Not ready. I was terribly upset and thought that I would never make it. I went back to training and classes, failed two more times and then when we actually passed, I was ecstatic. In hindsight, I expected too much of Bella, she was young and too energetic. We were broken in gently to the various places we could visit. Meanwhile I came home from a visit to Debbs with a new puppy ( I had not intended to have two!) So the training started all over again with Bailey, who turned out to be a different temperament all together. Quiet, independent and not as enthusiastic as Bella. Also I had learned a tremendous amount from my training with Bella. Bailey and I passed first time.
But guess what, I am dreading my renewal test, the knees will be knocking again. I have to laugh because I have now been volunteering, helping fellow teams pass their tests. I feel their nerves and I really want to help them understand it is a long process that with the best will in the world, today is not necessarily the day you pass and that is ok. We learn more from our mistakes, it keeps us humble and not complacent. When you are visiting as a team, you truly do need eyes in the back of your head to see what is going on around you. You never know who will approach you or who might harm your dog and it can be intense, but it brings immense joy to so many people and you get a dose of therapy too!
Everyone involved with MSTD does a phenomenal job. The years, hours, stress, worry and heartache they have gone through to maintain the integrity of MSTD is commendable, and they do it all for LOVE of the program tha has been built. I could not walk in their shoes.
When you pass your test to become a member of MSTD, you have every right to be proud because MSTD is held to a high standard and you have attained that level.
I promise you, if you really work hard with your dog, daily and consistently, go to Dogwood classes and really listen to what Donna says, you will pass. We just need therapy to cure our nerves.
Jan & Cabo
Mid-South Therapy Dogs (MSTD) was exactly what I was looking for when I moved to Memphis with my dog, Cabo, 1 ½ years ago. We had recently become a therapy team and I was looking for places to visit with my dog. But looking back, we sure had a lot to learn before we were ready to step out into the community.
I quickly discovered that MSTD had extremely high standards and they are committed to mentoring those who are serious about becoming a therapy team. After attending MSTD’s seminar and 3 workshops as well as enrolling in the recommended obedience and therapy skills classes at Dog Woods, Cabo and I were well on our way.
My schedule did not allow us to take the test offered in the Spring, but having a few additional months to train gave me the confidence I needed to pass the test and helped me strengthen my relationship with Cabo. Knowing you have been trained by the best gives you the assurance that you and your dog will be able to give your best.
Trust the process, it works! You and your dog will not be alone in your journey if you join MSTD. Whenever I had a question, it was promptly answered. If I needed help, someone was there to assist me. When I “did not get it” the explanation was rephrased in another way until the message was crystal clear. There will always be that support system along the way. Above all else, MSTD taught me how to be my dog’s best advocate.
Beverly & Bear
This was absolutely worth the time, effort, money – and much more!! I definitely want to serve through Mid South Therapy Dogs & Friends. The level of excellence in this organization seems unsurpassed, from the research I’ve done nationally. That is a true testament the organization’s time, effort and expertise in the field and their willingness to continue to train new members thoroughly.
I want Bear to enjoy her every endeavor with this and grow in her joy of serving. I will be very attuned to her every step of the way – she is my number one concern. Thanks for all the attachments – I love reading anything I can get my hands on with this and making plans for moving forward. Thanks, again for not giving up on us! You’ve all stuck by us, even when I’m sure it wasn’t “easy”! Looking forward to Saturday, for my first shadow visit, “Bear-less”!
Virginia & Millie
In the summer of 2011, my friend Jane had a hip replacement. I was certainly not expecting the impact that would have on my life.
While visiting her at Baptist Rehab, I met my first therapy dog, Flyer. I talked with her owner who told me a little bit about what is required of a therapy dog. I will say, she made it sound a whole lot easier than it really turned out to be. At this time in my life, I was looking for a purpose. My dog Millie has always loved people and I just knew this would be the perfect thing for us. I contacted Mary Ehrhart who took the time to give me much more information about what was required. The first step was to enroll in the Beginner Obedience class at Dog Woods. Millie was six years old and had absolutely no obedience training. I wondered if she was too old to start but Donna Eddins assured me that she was not, so off we went to class.
Millie learned all the basic obedience quickly but she really didn’t like being around the other dogs. Millie is a small dog and I call her “high-strung”. She also has a few other little quirks. She wouldn’t let me brush her. When I found out brushing was part of the therapy exam my heart sank. I thought that might be the end but with patience and a lot of treats, we worked through that. The therapy exam was set for December. At the workshop, Millie’s reaction to the other dogs showed us that she was not ready to take the test. I was devastated and so discouraged, but after a long talk with Mary I decided to keep working with her for the next few months and just see what happened. I thought she would make a wonderful therapy dog but I also accepted the possibility that maybe all this was just going to be too stressful for her. No one could say for certain that this would be something that she could overcome.
In January of 2012, we started back to classes. We moved up to the Advance Obedience class and she was doing fine with the obedience skills but still struggled with the other dogs. I kept her in classes and also took her out in the community where she could be exposed to different environments and situations. The therapy exam was going to be offered again in March and we did all the workshops. I was going to do everything I could to help her be ready. Thanks to Donna Eddins at Dog Woods, Millie finally had that breakthrough with the other dogs. By March, I knew that she could pass the therapy test but I was a nervous wreck. I actually had to have some anti-anxiety medication on test day. I almost couldn’t believe it but in March 2012, Millie passed the test!!
This past year, Millie has proved that she is a wonderful therapy dog. People everywhere we go love her and she loves them back. She especially loves the children and we visit Le Bonheur twice a month. We also do the R.E.A.D. program and we love that as well. I am selective about the places we visit and I won’t put her in situations that might be hard for her to handle. The journey wasn’t easy and we would not have made it if not for the support that MSTD provided. It took a lot of time and commitment and hard work. There were even a few tears shed along the way, but it is definitely worth every bit of it.