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Therapy Dogs


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Among the many inexplicable omissions in this inadequate book is a definition of the term ``therapy dog,'' which ordinarily describes a dog that, along with its owner or handler, has been trained to work safely with people who have special needs, such as the developmentally or physically disabled. Because therapy dog programs have proven so successful, Davis, who has performed such work with her own dogs, encourages readers to enroll themselves and their pets. General guidelines for visits, primarily to nursing homes, and useful pointers for dealing with staff and residents are supplied, but, lacking broad experience, Davis is not always convincing. Her discussion of training is scanty, covering basic obedience commands instead of teaching the reader how to acclimate a dog to the unusual and unpredictable circumstances it typically will encounter on the job, from the challenge of working with semi-ambulatory patients to others who are emotionally disturbed. In this sense, the author fails to give the potential usefulness of therapy dogs its due, and does not reckon directly with the occupational hazards involved. Davis advises seeking out an experienced trainer, but, curiously, fails to name any of the national organizations (such as the Delta Society of Renton, Wash.) that register trainers and handlers as well as provide a wealth of training resources--nor does she mention the nationwide testing now common for the dogs. Photos not seen by PW. (June)

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