PLATTE CITY, Mo. - University of Missouri Extension 4-H member Hannah Frew knows the power of pet therapy.
Hannah was seriously injured in an accident more than a year ago. While recovering, she made a special connection with a therapy dog named Dukey.
“When she first started rehab, she was just really scared, and then there was pain involved,” said Dana Frew, Hannah’s mother. “When the dog was there, it just seemed to make things better for her.”
Doctors suggested the Platte City teen get a dog of her own as part of her therapy. So the Frews adopted Maddy, a small white Westie.
Now that she’s better, Hannah wants to give back to her community.
Hannah and Maddy joined a group called Platte Pet Power. This MU Extension program prepares volunteers with animals to visit nursing homes, hospitals and family shelters to provide pet therapy.
“This program is important because of the human-animal bond, the unconditional acceptance,” said Sharen Hunt, MU Extension 4-H youth specialist. “If you’ve never seen it, it’s pretty amazing. The faces light up, the hands reach out, there’s smiles.”
Before the Platte Pet Power volunteers begin their visits, local veterinarian Billie Dean checks that the animals are well-groomed, have all proper vaccinations and are somewhat obedient. Dean also tests the animals with different scenarios that might scare them while they are in public.
"We are just basically doing a temperament testing to ensure that the animals are going to be able to adapt to a group situation at the nursing home or one of the shelters," Hunt said.
Hannah is excited about the program and plans to visit local nursing homes once a week with Maddy.
“I love older people and talking to them,” she said.
“It’s just utter joy to see her come back and to be happy again and smile,” Dana Frew said.
Hannah said she also plans to work with Maddy in her 4-H dog obedience and veterinary science project groups.
In 2008, Platte Pet Power members made more than 1,000 visits with their animals. For more information on how you and your pet can volunteer to help others, contact your local MU Extension center. For information about Platte Pet Power, see extension.missouri.edu/platte/plattepetpower.aspx.