When Denise Kaydar adopted rescue dog Millie, she never thought that the Jack Russell would become the dog she is today, describing her back then as shy and almost ‘feral’. Fast forward nine years though and Millie is now a Pets As Therapy Dog taking part in the charity’s Read2Dogs scheme. She has the kindest and most calming temperament and regularly visits local schools, encouraging children to read. We spoke to Denise about what inspired her to join Pets As Therapy and her experiences volunteering in schools.
What made you and Millie become PAT volunteers?
I have always had a particular interest and love for children with special needs, and once I’d heard of the benefits a therapy dog can bring to these young people, I knew I wanted myself and Millie to help where we could and give something back to the community.
Were you sure Millie would pass the assessment to become a PAT Dog?
Absolutely not! As I mentioned above, Millie has not always had this temperament, in fact she was nothing like this to begin with. But after showing her much love and attention, and plenty of training, she is now a beautifully calm dog that has the perfect characteristics to help kids. She now loves being read to and stroked, and in return, the children find her calming and comforting. It really is a win-win.
Do you have a particular memory or instance where yourself and Millie have helped a child?
I have many, but one particular boy always springs to mind. He was completely non-verbal when we met him, and while the teachers knew he could speak, due to something that has happened in his life, he chose not to speak. I never once asked him to speak. I never asked him why he didn’t want to speak; I just did all the talking and simply told him to love Millie, stroke her and she’ll love you back. We visited him every week, and after three weeks he slowly began to open up and talk more and more to Millie. Then, one day, when I walked into the classroom with Millie, he bellowed ‘Millie!’ right from the back of the classroom. Myself, the teachers and the other pupils could not believe it! The boy who was completely non-verbal was now shouting from the back of the room. Stories like this are exactly why Millie is part of PAT’s Read2Dogs scheme, and why we need more volunteers.
What would you say to anyone considering becoming a PAT Read2Dogs Volunteer?
Do it! It’s as simple as that. Both I, Millie and the school children get so much from it, and if you and your dog can help just one child feel more confident, content and relaxed in their schooling environment, it’s a job well done. Also, please don’t automatically think your dog will not pass the assessment or is not suitable. I was so worried that Millie wouldn’t pass due to her being a rescue dog and her temperament back then, but she did, and she really is a great therapy dog.
We would love to hear your stories about Pets As Therapy, whether you’re a volunteer, an establishment that works with us, or someone who has been visited by a PAT pet. To submit your story please contact email@example.com.
We are also always looking for new recruits to carry on the incredible work that volunteers like Denise and Millie do. If you are interested in volunteering for Pets As Therapy, please fill out our application form, and we’ll be in touch.