Troupe Member of the Month - Susan Johansen and Sophia
Susan has been a dedicated member of the PAWSitive Therapy Troupe since 2011. She has had a total of five registered Pet Partner therapy dogs over the years. Her current therapy dog is Sophia, a Lab / Golden mix. Susan says that Sophia is her “heart dog-- the one in a million dog that people dream about. Sophia started out life as a CCI service dog in training who had a "change of career" at 19 months of age. Sophia certified as a HOPE Animal-Assisted Crisis Response Comfort dog in 2014 and has deployed in various locations to bring comfort and encouragement to individuals experiencing crisis.
Susan and Sophia have volunteered at many different locations over the past 7 years. They are volunteers at Ann M Jeans, White Eagle, Westfield, Compass, Schafer and Pleasant Lane Elementary schools’ “Read With Me” programs. They have helped Downers Grove North High School students cope with final exam stress. They have been volunteers at “Read With Me” programs at Bloomingdale and Naperville Public Libraries. Susan and Sophia are faithful volunteers at the Bernadin Cancer Center and the Pediatrics unit at Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood. They also visit medical and nursing students at the Stritch School of Medicine/ Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing at Loyola. They work under the direction of physical and occupational therapists at Gottlieb Memorial Hospital in Melrose Park, helping rehabilitation patients achieve their treatment goals. And finally, Susan and Sophia have visited the seniors at Community Adult Daycare in Downers Grove and developmentally disabled adults at Little Friends Spectrum Vocational Services in Downers Grove.
Sophia has enjoyed appearing in the PAWSitive Therapy Troupe’s Canine Nutcracker in 2012 and 2015. She has starred as a Snowflake, a Dewdrop, a Soldier and a Ballroom Dancer.
Here is what Susan has to say about Sophia and her PAWSItive Therapy Troupe experiences:
"Sophia, aka Miss Congeniality is filled with JOY and wiggling happiness. She greets people of all ages like she is their long-lost BFF. She has a way of bringing out smiles from patients struggling with pain or those living with mental illness. She gently walks alongside little children to help build their confidence. She walks beside postoperative orthopedic patients as they learn how to walk again. Sophia senses what each person needs. She will lay down at the feet of someone who needs her comforting presence. She will work tirelessly at a game of fetch for those who need to exercise arms or work on balance in physical therapy. Sophia knows many tricks. She loves the applause and laughter as patients and school children watch her go through her repertoire. She brings joy and lifts spirits wherever she goes.
Our Troupe is also filled with” joy bringers”--hopeful, warm, fun and dedicated women and men who have come to mean the world to me. To be a part of such a loving, friendly, giving group of people is an honor I am thankful for every day. Sophia and I am able to give back to our community within a community of special people. Thank you to the Troupe for providing this opportunity to be of service and have friends as fabulous as you all!"
On behalf of all of us in the PAWSitive Therapy Troupe, thank YOU Susan for so many years of devoted service!
The PAWSitive Therapy Troupe is an all-volunteer 501(c)(3) public charity dedicated to sharing registered therapy dogs with individuals in a wide variety of health care and educational settings--bringing comfort, support and encouragement through the unique healing power of the human-animal bond.
PAWSitive Therapy team Amy and Buster on CBS News (February 16, 2018)
PAWSitive Therapy Troupe Featured on PBS's "In the Loop" (May 25, 2017)
Loyola Celebrates 20 Years of Pet Therapy
For 20 years, the PAWsitive Therapy Troupe has been visiting patients, families and colleagues at Loyola Medicine. These canine caregivers bring comfort, support and encouragement through the unique healing power of the human-animal bond.
What is the PAWSitive Therapy Troupe?
The PAWSitive Therapy Troupe is an Animal-Assisted Activities and Therapy program designed to share registered therapy dogs with patients and students in a variety of health care and educational settings.
What are Animal-Assisted Activities / Therapy?
Animal-Assisted Activities (AAA) share registered therapy dogs with patients or students in a variety of activities such as individual bedside visits, entertaining demonstrations or educational sessions. Animal- Assisted Activities are not necessarily goal-directed, but they are nonetheless certainly therapeutic in nature.
Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT) is goal-directed intervention in which a therapy dog is an integral part of the clinical treatment process. It is directed by a licensed health care or education professional with specialized expertise and within the scope of his or her profession. AAT is designed to promote improvement in physical, social, emotional and / or cognitive functioning / reading skills. This process is documented in the health care record by the health care professional or in the education plan by the education professional.
Is there a Difference Between a Therapy Dog and a Service Dog?
Yes! Therapy dogs are NOT “service”, or “assistance” dogs. Service dogs include guide dogs for the blind; hearing dogs that alert their owners to sounds; mobility assistance dogs, which may pull a wheelchair or directly support a person; seizure alert dogs; and others like them. Service dogs are covered under the Americans With Disabilities Act. People with disabilities can BY LAW, take their service dogs with them wherever they go, including planes, restaurants, sporting events, etc.
Many people are under the mistaken impression that therapy dogs and their handlers have the same rights of access as people with disabilities and their service animals. Therapy dogs are NOT service dogs. They are NOT allowed to accompany their handlers wherever they go. Therapy dogs are invited into hospitals, nursing homes or schools to work with patients or students on very specific tasks, or simply to bring their unconditional love to the many people who need them in these facilities. Therapy dogs and their handlers have no more rights of access than anyone with a companion animal or pet.
Therapy dogs are always first and foremost beloved family pets. You cannot “buy” a ready made therapy dog. Therapy dogs and their owners, because of their interest in therapy work have undergone additional rigorous training to prepare them to function reliably in health care or educational settings. Therapy dogs live at home with their families when they are not working.