At times, some extra special attention, a fuzzy hug and a lick on the face helps to make things a bit better – especially if you are hanging out with a therapy dog. For thousands of children throughout Bucks County, Roxy’s Therapy Dogs (RTD) bring comfort and confidence when it is most needed.
Founded in 2005 by Diane Smith, RTD has grown to include over 70 dogs and their handlers. Each week, the certified teams make weekly visits to children through a variety of programs either in a school, hospital or court house setting.
Literacy for All
The reading program began in 2005 when Smith offered her own dog, Roxy, for therapy visits at her son’s school to assist kids with reading challenges. Studies have shown that children relax when they read to a friendly dog and attitudes about reading improve. Children feel no judgement and they become more confident in their read-aloud ability. As Smith shares on RTD’s website, “Teachers told me Roxy reached these kids in a way no one else had been able to. A teacher survey indicated that every child said they loved reading to Roxy because she didn’t make fun of them.”
Today, teams of Roxy therapy dogs visit over 100 classes on a weekly basis. The teams go into main stream, learning support, autistic support and multiple handicap classes in 14 Central Bucks School District elementary schools.
Courthouse Therapy Dogs Program
A second vital part of RTD is their work in the courthouse. Therapy teams stand by abused or neglected children as they navigate the courtroom and the Child and Youth Services system. The presence of a therapy dog provides comfort and a calm, stabilizing presence during lengthy legal proceedings and long waiting periods.
Roxy Puppies are also an important part of this program. The small, stuffed animals are a gift to each child who meets a therapy dog in court. For a child who is suddenly removed from their home, this small cuddly possession becomes a comforting treasure.
Support and Comfort Programs
Additionally, RTD offers comfort to those who need extra emotional support during difficult times. Patients at both the Doylestown Hospital Pediatric Center and Pedia Manor group homes benefit from companionship visits. As part of the High School Student Support Program, teen students are able to relax and connect with their canine visitors. The program has provided information and tools on reducing stress and anxiety as well as educating students about the positive effects canines have on human well-being.
More therapy teams are needed to meet the number of increased requests for visits. Anyone considering becoming a certified therapy dog/handler team, should visit the RTD website for information on the required training. Dogs must pass both the American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen Test and a Therapy Dog Certification Test in order to serve with RTD.
Individual contributions provided 100% of the needed funds for Roxy Therapy Dog’s work. Visits are provided free of charge to schools and other organizations. Volunteer owners/handlers care for their own pets and the board manages the schedules and programming. However, expenses like dog ID vests, community outreach and the Roxy Puppy gift toys occur regularly. If you are interested in learning more or in making a donation, visit Roxy’s website at roxytherapydogs.org.