Friday, February 01, 2008

Therapy Dog, Miracle Dog, and Dr. Dog

Do you believe in miracles? Well, there was an event in the upstate New York town of Mahopac that could be considered a miracle. There's a 6-yr old boy who attends the Austin Road Elementary School in Putnam County whose name is Marc Oliviere. For some unknown reason, Marc does not speak. With a 6-yr old who hasn't spoken yet, any parent would be passed the point of speculation. There's definitely something not right. Until, a dog named Boo came to visit.

Boo is a Labrador mix and a therapy dog. Boo's handler brought him to the elementary school last month where he was introduced to children with special learning needs. Evidently, that was enough to get Marc out of his shell and into the world of communication! But, the biggest surprise was yet to happen after school when Marc's mom heard her son speak for the first time.

April Oliviere, Marc's mom, told a local newspaper that she still gets chills when she recalls the afternoon when her son jumped off the school bus, holding Boo's picture and talking about him. Since then, Marc has learned to speak in complete phrases. On recent visit by Boo, Marc told him that he was a good boy.

Although I presented Marc's story as a sort of minor miracle, I actually don't think so. I believe that innumerable good comes from the use of therapy dogs for both medical patients and people with special needs. Marc's case isn't as isolated as it seems. We just don't hear about them as often as we should.

Marc's case reminds me of the Dr. Dog program of the Philippine Animal Welfare Society. The Dr. Dog Program is the brainchild of AnimalsAsia, and PAWS serves as their Philippine coordinator.

It has been referred to as a win-win program, a program designed to provide emotional comfort and joy and to engender a healing process for disabled children. It seems that the general public has not been spared from the outreaching benefits of Dr. Dog. The program continues to enlighten the public about the societal value of animals, and the respect they deserve. It is through programs like Dr. Dog that the people can realize one of the great practical benefits of dogs which in turn could help reverse the tide against dog-eating and cruelty in general. According to PAWS, in the beginning, there was ambivalence on the part of the hospital staff to allow the dogs into their premises, believing that they were unclean and likely carriers of bacteria. However, a breakthrough similar to Marc's opened the door for the better. Dr. Freckles, an original Dr. Dog, managed to make an autistic child speak, one who had not spoken to anyone before, and that convinced the hospital staff to give the Green light for the program.

Support PAWS. Spare the Animals from the brutality.

1 comment:

FloFromLA said...

Here's another Dr. Dog you might want to know about: a children's book called "Dr. Duncan Dog on Duty!" by Lisa Dunn-Dern. Duncan is a family's dog, adopted from a shelter, that visits children in the hospital every week. The illustrations are beautiful; the illustrator is also an animator who worked on "The Simpsons Movie."
See for more info. By the way, Duncan is a chocolate lab.