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Q&A with animal assisted therapy expert Nancy Lind (part 1)

Handler and dog make up an animal assisted therapy team.
Handler and dog make up an animal assisted therapy team.
Cecelia, <>

Nancy Lind’s new book, Animal Assisted Therapy Activities to Motivate and Inspire, hit shelves last month. Lind is the founder of Rainbow Animal Assisted Therapy, Inc., a Morton Grove-based volunteer organization designed to promote improvement in childrens’ physical, social, emotional, and cognitive functioning through the use of animals (to read about other amazing things animals do, click here). Drawing on decades of her personal experiences, Lind describes over 50 specific animal assisted therapy activities in detail, including photographic and graphic support. The unique book’s aim is to provide useful information on this fast growing discipline to animal assisted therapy teams, therapists, and dog lovers across the country.

DogsExaminer: Why write this book now?

Lind: The book was designed out of a brainstorm. I started writing down the different activities that I was doing with the children, and then it evolved into the point that we had it broken down into motor skills, self-help skills, and all that. It was to give people out in the field, working in animal assisted therapy, additional ideas when they were working with the children, and to implant the idea that when we go in with the dogs we can address the children’s language skills, motor skills, and the like.

DogsExaminer: How long has Rainbow Animal Assisted Therapy been in operation?

Lind: We started in 1987, so that’s 23 years.

DogsExaminer: How has animal assisted therapy evolved since you started?

Lind: The field went from just visiting people, petting, talking, brushing, you know, interacting with the animals, to the point that there are groups out there that are actually meeting the schoolchildren’s individual educational plans and so that when we’re in a school and the teachers catch on, we help them promote the children to meet their individual goals. We no longer think of petting and brushing and walking the dog, we think of the cognitive skills we can teach, the self-help for those children that are physically involved, in other words, feeding, whatever you can do. I had children preparing the dog’s meal in the morning, washing the dishes; we try to find out what they’re working on and then develop activities with the dog that will facilitate that. So it’s become quite sophisticated in some areas. Some areas are still doing the basic visitation.

DogsExaminer: How big is the organization?

Lind: We’re probably approaching 190 individual programs with a lot of one-day programs when we do dog safety and those kinds of visitation activities. We ended the last year with over 200 members.

DogsExaminer: What does it take to become a member?

Lind: When a person wants to join with their dog, we ask them to visit three programs without their dog to see what we do. They take a six-hour class and at the end of the class, there is a Canine Good Citizen test, and if they’re joining us, our therapy dog test, which is a little beyond the Canine Good Citizen test. Then they do three observations with their dog. We have just instituted an internship so that we could get new teams working right away and gaining new experience and seeing the different ways they can use their dog and give them an idea to work in different types of programs. Once we have an opening that fits their locale and time, they go into a regular program at a school or rehab facility. They are usually working with other teams and they start getting the school’s goals and working with a group of children on a set basis, usually twice a month.

DogsExaminer: What areas does the organization cover?

Lind: We cover the Indiana border to roughly Joliet and then straight north to the Wisconsin border. We cover the six county metropolitan area.

DogsExaminer: Do you have any programs in Elgin?

Lind: We go out there occasionally and do one-time things or an information booth, but we do not have a program out in Elgin just yet, and that’s right on the borderline of our area. Teams are scarce out there.

Jump to Part 2


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