When it comes to our canine companions, a lot of people are very familiar with the concept of and the benefits of a service dog.  The concept of therapy dogs is a bit more abstract and less familiar to a lot of people, but we have found tremendous benefits that come from our participant’s interactions with therapy dogs. 

Service dogs are taught to assist a single disabled person.  They are “trained to carry out certain activities on their handler’s behalf.  They go through extensive, high-end, task-oriented training to assist their owners with impairments.”  Therapy dogs, on the other hand, interact with a multitude of people in an effort to provide comfort and boost emotional well-being.

At GiGi’s Playhouse Rockford, we are blessed to have the amazing duo of Ron Selin and his adorable five-year-old Shetland Sheepdog, Annie, as regular volunteers and visitors at the Playhouse.  As a member of the “17th Circuit Therapy Dog Volunteers” program, Annie has now completed more than 540 community visits to hospitals, schools, courtrooms, and community non-profits.  We feel lucky to be on their weekly route… and we are proud to boast that we are reportedly one of Annie’s favorite places to visit!

Annie and Ron’s visits to the Playhouse have netted nothing but “paws-itive” results for our participants. 

  • She has encouraged some of our very shy participants to come out of their shell and actively seek engagement;
  • She has promoted calm and reduced anxiety in participants who might be experiencing struggles or just generally having a hard day;
  • She has helped individuals overcome fear and tension that resulted from unfavorable canine interactions in their past;
  • She encourages non-verbal participants to express themselves;
  • She freely gives individualized attention to each person, making them feel valued and special;
  • She welcomes everyone, providing a very real sense of inclusion and acceptance;
  • She brings joy by selflessly and unconditionally interacting with anyone who needs a little bit of “Annie magic!”

We always say that it takes a village to move our mission forward. Without a doubt, our partnership with Ron, Annie, and the “17th Circuit Therapy Dog Volunteers” is a strong and greatly valued component of our success!

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