Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Thank You Laura Hey from Health Heelers for your Dedication to Animal Assisted Therapy

Laura Hey with Mingo and Jasper
November is the month to give thanks, and this week we at Earth Heart want to give thanks to Health Heelers. We had the pleasure to talk to Laura Hey recently, a new customer of Earth Heart. One of our goals at Earth Heart is to spread the word about women in the industry who are helping others in some special way. Meet Laura Hey…former occupational therapist who in 2001 founded Health Heelers because of her deep belief that some animals have the innate ability to aid in human health and healing. And how true that has proven to be.

Laura is now one of a handful of certified Animal-Assisted Therapists in the country. Health Heelers is a full service therapy dog organization specializing in programs to:
  • Aid in human recovery after injury, illness or disability
  • Maximize learning and minimize barriers to education
  • Promote emotional wellness and personal growth
  • Enhance quality of life through safe and positive human-animal interactions
This is accomplished by creating unique and innovative activities, lessons, projects and events in which therapy dogs are active participants.

Health Heelers therapy dog teams (i.e. registered handlers and their therapy dogs) undergo very special and extensive training that maximizes their skills in order to provide the greatest possible therapeutic value and outcomes! There is a rigorous evaluation process since not all dogs are comfortable in all environments; temperament plays a key role in matching the right dog to the right situation. Photo to the right is of Max & Chris~ Max is a large (80 lb.), male golden-doodle with a sweet, calm nature, born Nov 1, 2007. Chris and Max have been a Health Heelers team since January 2011. They volunteer at a hospital, schools, colleges, and assisted living facilities.

Helping College Students before Mid-Term Exams
One of the things we learned in talking with Laura is the difference between Therapy dogs and Service dogs.

Therapy Dogs go out into the community to provide support, contact and comfort. They visit places like nursing homes, schools, and hospitals. There are no legal rights for these dogs and access is by invitation only. The key is that these animals are exceedingly social. There are many other animals that play the “therapy” role including birds, bunnies, miniature horses, guinea pigs, and llamas. These animals have to be naturally social to play this role.

Service Dogs are specifically trained to do tasks for a person with a disability – seeing eye dogs, dogs that turn on light switches, bring medicines and food, provide assistance upstairs, help with panic attacks. And legally service dogs are allowed in all public places including transportation. They perform tasks on queue reliably with the proper training. There are some dogs even trained to see a change in mental state and are able to break the emotional state. Service dogs tend to be naturally goal oriented with a high degree of focus.

So this month we are thankful for Laura and her dedication to animal assisted therapy. She and her program have been life-changing to so many people and for that she deserves this week’s Earth Heart Shout Out!!