Time For You Features

Volunteer and Take Your Dog with You

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By Susan Dunn, intelligence coach
Special to

The secret of not-for-profit agencies is that there is great benefit to the benefactor. It should not be a secret. You’ve probably learned that the key to a miserable life is to focus on yourself alone. For the doldrums, for the blahs, a lack of purpose or refinding the breadcrumb trail, try volunteering.

As a fundraiser, I learned firsthand it isn’t just “buzz” that changes people’s lives. From the idle rich, to parents bringing their children for an emotional learning experience and educational family activity, to singles flexing their caring muscles, to people in recovery, to people with stories I’ll never know, all benefited. Sometimes the clients did as well.

Those who wrote checks benefited less than those who put in volunteer time and here’s an opportunity that takes the stress off going to a strange place and meeting strangers. Go volunteering with your dog.

Nursing homes, children’s shelters, hospital wards, rehab centers, psychiatric wards and prisons are all possibilities. The right dog is egalitarian in his ability to divert, entertain and unconditionally love.

Best visiting dogs enjoy meeting strangers, approach in a friendly, not aggressive manner, tolerate strange situations and calm quickly.

Begin with basic obedience training. Then start accustoming your dog to strange places and people so they learn to trust they’ll be okay wherever you take them.

Then choose your venue, a place where your dog can shine. Your dog may be overstimulated by a bunch of squealing kids or despondent at the relative quiet of a nursing home.

Investigate opportunities through The Bright and Beautiful Therapy Dogs, Inc. and Delta Society to schedule your visit. Or go it alone. If you and your dog are ready, call a volunteer director and arrange your visit.

Susan Dunn, MA clinical psychology ,a.k.a. The EQ Coach, SusanDunn.cc. Visit the site for free e-zines.