Each handler must be able to "sweep and scope" the setting before a visit, aware of situations to avoid and those that might need redirection. It is a good idea to always have a exit plan in mind. Being aware of the differences in each facility is essential. We love our pets, but to assume all do or can be coaxed into relaxation when stressed, is likely to surprise us and not in a pleasant way! The handler must be one who can keep negativity in its place. Team handlers will, at some time or another, meet a person who does not understand the benefits of this type of volunteer work. It is important to accept this, as methods of persuasion usually could be met with a bit of unpleasantness! We must be able to be as intuitive as our
dogs are and use our intelligence in order for this partnership to be effective. -Terri Smith
After the initial evaluation has been successful, the new team must complete a Field Evaluation. The team tested will arrive at an approved and appropriate facility, and that dog will be the sole dog present. It is in this manner a field evaluator, experienced in animal assisted therapy in a variety of settings, will assess and determine the credibility of the team as they interact and engage with staff and residents present. Should all be well, the new team is then certified. New Handlers then contact their preferred facility to fulfill requirements for volunteering. Often an orientation is required, and each partner facility may have a dress code. Members set their visiting schedule. Teams are responsible to contact their resource person should they need to reschedule a visit. Each visit must be documented and forwarded to H.A.L.O.'s Director, Marcia Bowermon, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Communication between facilities and team handlers is essential to a successful relationship. H.A.L.O. contacts most facilities monthly to insure all is well with all parties.
Janine is a welcome sight at Yukon Middle School, bringing a peace, calm and accountability to students.
Our volunteers enjoy interaction with university students and staff during finals week and throughout the year. All are given individual attention in order to reduce stress.
Our H.A.L.O. handlers and pets take their positions as volunteers very seriously, whether at community events, or in Darby's case, spending time with students in trauma or travelers at the airport. Jay acts as his pet partner's advocate by making sure he plans for water and stress breaks.
"When we are with our pets, we remember a simpler time, even when much of our time here is far from simple. We try to find patterns to follow with every bend of the road, decide what to trust and what to fear. The companionship of our pets is the constant that carries us through."
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The H.A.L.O. yellow vest is automatically a welcome sight for those many people who need relief in the form of a great dog. It can be and often is the best prescription for health one can receive!
The prospective team enters the initial evaluation site just as if they are entering a facility for a visit, and proper wear is required for both handler and dog. A well groomed presence is a must. Slip, prong, or pinch collars are prohibited. Retractable leashes are as well. Handler and pet are directed through a series of obedience, temperament, and personal judgement exercises followed by an interview. The evaluators watch closely to see how the handler and pet respond to one another as several distractions are introduced. A H.A.L.O. dog is a part of this evaluation. Reliability and consistency of the team is of extreme importance. Expectations are high, as volunteers must understand they are representing animal assisted therapy and activities in the community. Professional behavior and confidentiality is expected by teams at all times. This doesn’t mean “fun” isn’t allowed; on the contrary, flexibility and enjoying one’s work are essential to a team’s success and the health and welfare of all.
H.A.L.O. dogs must be a member of the family. This pet partner must be drawn toward people and able to make himself at home in many facilities. The emphasis must be on the individual animal, as each situation is different. Common sense demands obedience as a factor, along with proper hygiene and veterinarian care. Animals are evaluated as the individuals they are. The evaluator must be able to see beyond and look for the wealth each potential team can offer in many different environments.
Marcia and Zeke take time to participate in "Walk for Life." It's all about contributing, and there is nothing better than doing so with your well-mannered and people-centered pet partner at your side.
Human Animal Link of Oklahoma Foundation
Animal Assisted Therapy & Activities