When Executive Director Kelsey Burton called with the tragic news that three students from Warren Central High School had been killed, Marcia Baker knew that her therapy dog, an Australian Shepherd/Poodle mix named Raisin, could be a source of comfort for the grieving student body.
“I was more than glad to help out,” Marcia said, although she wasn’t sure what awaited her and Raisin at the school. “I couldn’t imagine thousands of students grieving over what was such a raw and tragic event.”
So off went Marcia and Raisin to Warren Central.
It was a typical reaction for someone whose love of both dogs and helping teens in need goes back decades.
Marcia grew up in St. Petersburg, Florida, in a dog loving family. Whether it was tramping through the woods or playing in the creek, dogs were a constant presence in her life. “I can’t remember a moment when there wasn’t a canine friend in the family,” she said.
Marcia eventually became a teacher, working with at-risk teens in challenging environments and communities.
More recently, she became the owner of three-year-old Raisin. Marcia described Raisin as playful, yet relaxed, as she recalled the time Raisin slept on her back in the crate on the way home from Kentucky, where she was adopted.
Marcia soon realized that Raisin’s happy-go-lucky nature was perfectly suited for a dog therapy setting. “When Raisin came into my life, I knew I wanted to share her with anyone who needed a canine friend,” she said.
So when Marcia learned about Paws & Think while searching for pet therapy opportunities, she jumped at the opportunity for her and Raisin to get involved.
The duo travel all over Indianapolis giving comfort to kids in venues such as IPS #34, Brooks Place, Coburn Place, and Julian Center.
In addition to volunteering with Raisin, the Youth-Canine Program is a passion of Marcia’s given her background in helping troubled teens.
“Getting back to this love of mine, along with my love of dogs, this program was just perfect for me,” Marcia said of Youth-Canine.
For the program, Marcia has spearheaded the effort to develop new program training materials so that the program can be replicated in juvenile detention centers all over the country.
The materials, Marcia explained, will “make what we do easier, more focused, and increase the opportunity to bring about even better outcomes for the dogs and youth participating in the program.”
But while programs like Youth-Canine involve a highly structured training program where at-risk students teach the basics of dog obedience to their canine pupils, when it came to comforting students at Warren Central, there was no program that could prepare Marcia and Raisin for what they would experience.
When they arrived at the school, the pair was greeted quietly by faculty and staff and instructed to just be available for the students.
“Raisin realized that this wasn’t a time for play,” Marcia said.
The pair wandered through the clusters of students who were sitting on the floor, standing along the hallways, and gathering in the counseling offices, trying to process the horror of what had happened.
“There wasn’t much need for words,” said Marcia. “Raisin was more than happy to lay next to a student or be surrounded by a group of students and be touched as they worked through their feelings.”
However, as time went on, lighter conversation emerged from the silence as the students began to bond with Raisin. They inquired about her breed (often a topic of mystery among those first meeting Raisin) and her love of full-body massages. Many of them would also begin to open up and share their own dog stories. “This seemed to ease them back into the ‘normal’ world again,” said Marcia.
After several days of being available for students, fewer and fewer students continued to need help. High school counselors gently guided students back into class.
By Thursday, the counselors informed Marcia and Raisin that their job was done. Although their calming presence was no longer needed at Warren Central, Marcia is ready to serve again if needed.
“We will be there in a heartbeat if we get the call.”
UPDATE: SOLD OUT!
Thank you to everyone who purchased a shirt, and thank you for supporting Paws & Think!
There are new Paws & Think t-shirts available for all our volunteers and supporters! Throwback Threads Clothing Co. is offering two different shirts with 25% of sales being donated to Paws & Think. Be sure to pre-order your shirt before it’s too late! Click the links below to purchase the shirts directly from the Throwback Threads Clothing Co. website.
– Unisex, modern crewneck fit
– Made with a super soft triblend of 50% poly, 25% combed and ring-spun cotton, 25% rayon
– Screenprinted In Indianapolis, Indiana
In November of 2015, Katie Selzler came across a picture on the Indianapolis Animal Care Services website of a dark-haired retriever named Remy who appeared to be smiling at the camera. Katie was looking to adopt an older dog, and Remy was estimated to be about five years old at the time. Inspired by the gentle soul captured in the photo, Katie went to IACS to meet Remy, but was told he was not available for adoption because he was in a program at the Marion County Juvenile Detention Center. Intrigued, Katie went back to IACS every day for the next three days until she was finally able to meet Remy, who was by then a new graduate of the Pawsitive Corrections Youth-Canine training program. Katie and Remy took a quick walk together, and after seeing how calm, happy, and friendly he was with strangers, she knew he was the dog for her.
Flash forward to 2017: Katie is searching online for ways to volunteer and give back to the community when she comes across Paws & Think. Having worked for animal rescues in the past, she was particularly interested in volunteering with an organization that worked with rescue dogs, and Paws & Think seemed like the perfect fit. She and Remy soon enrolled in the pet therapy training class, and in March they passed their evaluation to become a registered Paws & Think therapy team. Katie says she and Remy plan to visit hospitals and nursing homes, specifically facilities that have memory care centers. Katie is looking forward to volunteering as much as her schedule allows, and we are thrilled to have one of our Youth-Canine graduates return to Paws & Think as a volunteer. Look for Katie and Remy at upcoming outreach events where they will be helping to spread the word about Paws & Think!
Technically, the title “therapy dog” didn’t exist in the days of the American West. But after visiting the Dogs: Faithful and True exhibit at the Eiteljorg Museum, you’d be hard-pressed to say they didn’t give their owners therapy. Whether it was defending their owner during a hunt or mushing across the unforgiving frozen landscape, dogs played vital roles as heroes, workers, and companions in Native American and Western Culture.
Dogs: Faithful and True is a celebration of those dogs. Through art, photographs, artifacts, and interactive experiences, visitors can learn about the history of dogs in the American West.
In addition, you’ll also have the opportunity to meet some of the Paws & Think therapy dogs! As a proud program partner, Paws & Think dogs will be visiting the exhibit one Saturday a month from noon-4pm. Those days are:
- May 13th
- June 3rd
- July 8th
Other events include dog adoption from the Indy Humane’s Pet Adoption Wagon, fun dog-related art workshops, and a talk from the Purdue College of Veterinary Medicine on the history of dogs in art.
To learn more about the exhibition and event times, visit the Dogs: Faithful and True event page on the Eiteljorg website. We look forward to seeing you there!
If you are interested in volunteering your time (along with your pet) for one of the Animal Assisted Activity/Therapy programs, our next available class begins in May! The class dates are May 20, June 3, 10, and 17. (Evaluations will be June 24.) Please remember that prior to class, you will need to contact Nina Esbin at email@example.com as well as complete and submit an assessment tool. (Pre-registration and pre-payment is required.)
If you are interested in volunteering your time (along with your pet) for one of the Animal Assisted Activity/Therapy programs, our next available class begins in April! The class dates are April 8, 15, 22 and 29. (Evaluations will be May 6.) Please remember that prior to class, you will need to contact Nina Esbin at firstname.lastname@example.org as well as complete and submit an assessment tool. (Pre-registration and pre-payment is required.)
“She came out and put her head on my shoulder as if to say ‘I just need some love’”, recalls Pam Martin of her encounter with the sweet, shy dog in the Youth-Canine Evening Care Program.
And love is exactly what Pam gives to the shelter dogs that are being trained in the JDC by their youth partners. Pam has been a Pet Therapy volunteer alongside her beloved partner Tito, and had always been interested in the Youth-Canine program. Now as a volunteer in the Evening Care Program, she spends time interacting with the dogs, including playing with them, feeding them, and going on walks.
The love goes both ways. Pam fondly remembers how her fellow volunteer Tammy fell in love with a beautiful hound mix named Bailey, who now calls Tammy “Mom”. Along with the training provided by each dog’s designated JDC youth instructor, Evening Care Volunteers give these special dogs the socialization needed to increase their chances of being adopted from the shelter and finding a forever home.
And Pam’s favorite part of volunteering in the Evening Care Program? “I love spending time with the dogs! They are so appreciative of the attention they receive.”
The winner of our 15th Anniversary Photo Contest is Fritz!
Fritz has been on quite a journey. Adopted by Mary Bennett from Indianapolis Animal Care & Control, the Staffordshire Terrier/Bulldog mix became a Paws & Think therapy dog, and now he has just won the #pawsandthink15 photo contest!
What made Fritz stand out to Mary at IACC? “After looking at many, he stood out because he was so loving,” she explains. “He thinks he’s a lap dog and just wanted to snuggle and love.”
Fritz’s happy-go-lucky spirit made him a perfect fit for serving with Paws & Think. Since February 2016, he has volunteered at locations such as Brooke’s Place, which provides support to young people and their families after the loss of a loved one. “He loves being with the people, especially the children at Brooke’s place,” Mary says. “It’s great to know we can help in some small way to make people’s days a little brighter, and I love that we can do it together.”
And Fritz doesn’t stop at just loving people. He loves spending time with other dogs and cats – and even loves going to the vet!
So, does Fritz have any other surprises up his sleeve? “He doesn’t have a large repertoire of tricks, but he does love to give people high fives,” Mary says. Well Fritz, in honor of our 15th anniversary, here is a virtual high-five to commemorate your victory! Congratulations!
Leptospirosis (lepto) is a bacterial disease that can infect animals and humans. In the past, this was a fairly rare disease in dogs. However, over the past few years, it has become more common and easier to obtain.
Lepto is acquired by coming into contact with infected urine or from coming into direct contact with infected animals. The most common sources our dogs may acquire infection from includes rodents and wildlife, such as squirrels, raccoons, deer, opossums, and skunks.
Our dogs can become infected by coming into contact with water or soil where the infected animal’s urine has spread. In fact, lepto can live in water and soil for weeks to months! It is a very persistent little bacteria! Our dogs can obtain the infection by drinking, swimming, or even just walking though water that is contaminated, as it can enter through the skin, eyes, mouth, or nose.
Lepto can be life-threatening to many dogs if they become infected. However, some dogs may not become sick, but could still shed the bacteria in their urine. Additionally, lepto can be shed in a dog’s urine for up to 3 months after infection.
Humans that come into contact with infected dogs are at a high risk of becoming infected themselves. This is very dangerous for children, the elderly, and anyone with a compromised immune system. In fact, one-third of lepto cases in humans come from contact with infected dogs.
For this reason, and because of the communities of people we work closely with in promoting the human-animal bond, we follow the Centers for Disease Control’s recommendation regarding lepto and dogs. The Centers for Disease Control recommends dogs be vaccinated against lepto yearly.
In the past, small dogs (dogs weighing less than 30 pounds) tended to have vaccine reactions to the lepto component of vaccines. Some would develop hives or facial swelling. However, over the past few years, vaccine technology has vastly improved and the risk of a vaccine reaction is far less likely now.
There is always a small percentage of dogs in which vaccine may not be 100% effective, and a small percentage of dogs that could still become carriers of the bacteria. While we can’t account for all of the variants, we can do our due diligence to protect the humans who our therapy dogs serve. Protecting this bond means minimizing any risk that may threaten it, which includes preventing infectious diseases that may be transmissible from dogs to humans.
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When Leanne Whitesell met Paws & Think’s Executive Director at Woofstock 2013, she was excited to learn of the opportunities the organization could offer for her dog. When she got Terrence three years earlier, she knew right away that his gregarious nature and his desire to be around people would make him a great therapy dog, but she struggled to find information about how to accomplish this goal for him. Paws & Think offered a path that made sense, and she says she was drawn to the organization by the friendliness and helpfulness of the staff and volunteers. “They were patient with me and Terrence as we negotiated our way through our new world and allowed Terrence to be himself,” she says. By January of 2014, they were a certified therapy team.
In the past three years, Terrence and Leanne have logged 97 therapy visits at 23 different venues. Terrence especially enjoys reading with children, and they regularly visited Eastridge Elementary School, where Leanne remembers two particularly special success stories where Terrance was able to help students improve their reading skills. One third grader improved by three reading levels and said that she believes that reading with Terrence made her enjoy practicing her reading more. Another student worked with Terrence for two years and formed a deep bond with him during their reading time – Terrence would crawl into her lap, and having his undivided attention helped to motivate her. She was the first student in her class to receive the Top Dog trophy for reading ten books.
Leanne appreciates that Paws & Think allows her and Terrence to volunteer together, and she feels their work is special because it provides opportunities for many people to engage with therapy dogs who would not otherwise be able to benefit from bonding with an animal. She says that Terrence loves visiting with people and making new friends through Paws & Think. “He is very aware of his responsibilities when he wears his uniform and takes his job very seriously,” she says.
Leanne and Terrence have been volunteering at the Indianapolis Public Library – Irvington Branch since June of 2014. You can stop by to visit them at our Paws to Read program the second Saturday of every month from 11:00am-12:00pm.