May 27, 2012
By Jenni Balthrop
Therapy Pals of Golden Triangle, based in Denton, Texas, has attended the Special Olympics Texas Summer Games for the past four years, providing a different type of encouragement for athletes.
Typically you’ll see Therapy Pals in groups of two, who stand out from the athletes, coaches, and family and friends making their way through the University of Texas at Arlington campus. Jerri and Aimee are one set pair of Therapy Pals who attended this year’s games. Jerri looks like your typical spectator at the events, cheering loudly for the athletes. But Aimee, is a bit quieter because, well, she’s a dog.
“This is the fourth year that we’ve been invited to the Special Olympics of Texas,” said Jerri Martin, a member of the Therapy Pals group. “Our goal is to provide support and companionship to the athletes at this year’s Summer Games.”
Interactions with dogs – and other animals – have been shown to reduce stress and anxiety in all ages, and can even reduce blood pressure! But Therapy Pals are not the average dog. Therapy Pal dogs must be certified and show competency in obedience and leash training and demonstrate gentle temperament. Additionally, both dogs and their handlers take classes to learn the special set of skills required to be a Therapy Pal, including studying the sounds a wheelchair makes to the understanding specific medical equipment they may see during their sessions.
Martin explained that, besides Special Olympics, the organization also visits nursing homes, assisted living centers and juvenile detention centers around Denton County. For more information on Therapy Pals, visit www.gtdogonline.org or visit their Facebook page.