aarugh -- I lost everything I typed for 15 minutes grrrrr
I totally understand what Lies is saying and she's absolutely right on several counts (in no particular order or ranking).
1. Unfortunately, as the number of places you can "go" with your dog decrease and the more rules and regulations we're all confronted with, people tend to seek things they can "do" with their dogs.
ALSO -- at the same time, other people are seeking social outlets -- and honestly, NOT real volunteerism spirit, but rather groups of other like-minded singles, activity groups, sometimes church groups, etc. -- but people looking for a social thing to do and taking your dog to someplace **with a social group attached** (sometimes coffee afterwards, etc.) is very attractive -- often to the WRONG folks.
This attracts people AND dogs that don't have any kind of real heart for what pet therapy **should** be about.
I'm not sure why the hospital requires Delta, but that's the way it is, so the OP would want to check around where she intends to bring her dogs and see if they require a certain test/insurance policy or be prepared to change/fight it.
2. Often hospitals, medical facilities (both for kids and adults, and the full gamut of basis of operation) have to be CONVINCED to try pet therapy.
There can be a pervasive assumption (some religions, some ethnic groups, and some folks just plain are NOT dog/animal people) that dogs are "dirty" or just plain should be "outside". And in ANY sort of heavy-duty medical environment there is also a huge concern about potential allergens, pet dander, and general "diseases" pets are supposed to somehow carry.
Many, many facilities are completely CLOSED to pet therapy. And often it is one particular group who will literally make it their mission to try to get into certain facilities.
Once these groups have done a ton of ground work it's not uncommon to see that facility ONLY allow *that* group to come in. Often simply because there was one particular point that was a "sticking point" that somehow THAT group was able to prove themselves on -- so a kind of 'trust' was formed so the hospital (and usually this is a "committee decision") will say "ONLY ABC Organization may bring animals in that satisfy their X-point criteria!"
Delta is nationally known and is one of the first "big" certifying agencies.
3. Geography somehow plays a large part here -- and I think this is just due to how something like pet therapy 'spreads' -- someone who did pet therapy with ABC group in Philadelphia re-locates to San Jose and then looks for an ABC group there -- and when none was there they set about to form one because it was familiar to them.
HOWEVER< at the same time that tends to make some areas "different".
I'm not going to condemn Delta as a whole because I know it is a very good organization and they strive to be very consistent (hence they have this huge training program and they really don't want ANY dogs/handlers in their organization who haven't gone thru THEIR program -- which tends to be ***extremely *** expensive for many folks.). But they ARE endeavoring to be consistent.
BUT ... once again, because it IS national and they have these well known training programs that you can simply pay for and sign up -- they're attractive to people looking for a little more training and something to do with other like-minded people.
Here in the Orlando area (and I know my own opinion isn't alone because I've compared notes with a lot of people on this) Delta tends to be a lot of single folks looking for a 'singles group' type of thing to do.
When I inquired into it several years ago I was flatly told that *I* wasn't going to be "happy" with Delta because I'm not mobile enough. She told me baldly that "When we take a group into the hospital we see 240 children/people in two hours with a team of 5-6. I doubt you would be able to KEEP UP with us!" (caps mine).
TO *ME* that's not pet therapy -- that's a marathon! That's just sheer numbers. I got ticked off and pressed her further. The dog I wanted to get certified was deaf (he had no ears) and he used touch sign (how do you get a deaf dog's attention when he's faced away from you???) but he was already doing a ton of therapy dog work with children and seniors.
Nope -- they wouldn't take HIM because they don't allow touch signs -- not even for deaf or deaf/blind dogs.
She flatly told me that their dogs/handlers were all able-bodied because they "set quite a pace".
Like I said -- to me that's not pet therapy. I told her so and moved on.
What exists here has allowed TDI And TD, Inc. to flourish. Back when I got Muffin certified, there wasn't a TDI group, nor TD, Inc. group that I could find TO certify him so I went thru Bright and Beautiful out of New York City (this was soon after 9-11 and I got to know June during some research I did then).
4. There is now kind of a knee-jerk reaction taking place, which I honestly think is good. There are groups here that are simply saying "NO, this is NOT how pet therapy should be, and just plopping insurance on someone does not make it 'safe' or satisfactory"
So they are testing HARDER -- they are requiring more, and making sure that in the interests of "promoting pet therapy" that the wrong animals and handlers aren't getting certified. This can be good -- ... this can also be .... over-done. But I think it's necessary.
In fact, one of the reasons why we've begun with this new trainer is exactly for that reason.
Pet therapy should be between the ANIMAL and the PATIENT. It's not ME dropping by to have my dog "entertain" someone. That's done ... but it's more entertainment than pet therapy. Pet therapy is about a bond created between the animal and the patient. Creating peace and harmony in the patient, or actually ministering to needs they have that are met by the interaction with the animal.
ME? I'm there to make sure it stays safe. To make darned sure my dog isn't too tired ... to make sure my dog is covered in case the human does something odd or dangerous (like inadvertnetly hurting the dog by grabbing too tightly or striking out suddenly - and yeah, it can happen!!), or to make sure the dog doesn't inadvertently injure the human (a paw stepping on fragile skin, a playful lunge ofsetting someone's balance, or 9999 other potential problems).
In another thread about pet therapy I mentioned that one of our criteria (David and I) is not to let the dog get too tired -- because even an hour CAN be **very** tiring.
And someone posted incredulous that my dog would "tire" after an hour and that I must be doing something WRONG (or that the animal isn't fit to do pet therapy).
WRONG WRONG WRONG -- pet therapy is emotionally draining. When an animal visits a sick human being -- they can often absorb those emotions and sort of walk away with it. It's part and parcel of how emphathetic dogs are -- and how much they WANT to give that unconditional love to everyone they meet.
For some folks that pet therapy where their animals simply 'perform' or they just march thru a facility with many folks taking 5 seconds to pat Poochie -- I suppose it may be different. But for most dogs, spending time with critically ill people -- or with elderly people who really need love, assurance, or folks who may exhibit some forms of dementia or alzheimer's -- that is EXHAUSTING and you have to respect your dog and be **VERY** protective of that animal's well being.
One whiff that one of my dogs is fatigued and we stop. And it's a learning thing to notice that and watch for it.
One of the things we discussed with the trainer last weekend was this VERY thing. And probably the biggest thing that David and I both decided we LIKED about this woman was her very insistence that one of her highest priorities in therapy dog work is to ensure that the animals aren't allowed to get too tired and she NEVER allows prolonged visits (particularly not outside because the heat here can be SO tiring). But her insistence that one of her emphasis points in teaching pet therapy IS **watch your dog ALL the time** for fatigue.
That's just one of my little hot buttons, but SpiritDogs and Liesje are exactly right in their cautions above. Pet therapy is wonderful - but it is also quite a commitment. And if you go on to actually BE certified, it is a commitment. But it can be the most rewarding thing you ever experience as well.