A Program Testimonial
"A student does not want to read in front of his teacher or any adult. A teacher introduces him to a beautiful golden retriever named Enzo. The teacher states that Enzo enjoys listening to people read. "Would you care to try?" The student opens a book and starts reading to the dog! Enzo settles closer to the student, snuggling closer as the child continues to read; a hand reaches out to pet the dog. Pure joy! A child with few words sits down by Titus, a giant Saint Bernard, and starts an animated conversation with the dog. Titus and the elementary student snuggle in with lots of smiles, giggles, and words. Priceless! A 2nd grader takes her Spanish book and reads to Fannie. Then chooses to re-read the book, translating it into English, just in case the dog doesn't understand Spanish. Amazing! We are excited to partner with West Michigan Therapy Dogs in their Ruff Readers Program. They are supporting students in their reading skills, emotional, physical, and psychological needs. Even people who have a neutral attitude toward animals can appreciate and benefit from the dogs' nonjudgmental presence. Each child has a sense of purpose as they spend time with the dogs. Students and teachers love each of their visits. Every visit is a treat! This is an amazing community program! We are honored to be a part of it!" - Sherri Tibbe, Elementary Principal at Zeeland Christian School
A Family Member Testimonial
“My oldest son was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, bone cancer in his femur, and he spent most of a year at Helen DeVos Children's Hospital. Every other Tuesday, a group of WMTD dogs and their owners came to visit us. We both missed our dog, Ava, very much, and getting to spend time with these loving animals and their gracious and kind owners helped to fill this void. Just a few months into his treatment, we were lucky enough to meet Clarence, a French bulldog with who we fell in love. He worked in the Emergency Department but was kind enough to visit the oncology inpatient floor. Clarence and his mom provided us with much-needed distraction by helping us learn about the breed and about a breeder they knew. We met this breeder and decided that a puppy would be a great addition to our family at the end of treatment. We continued to have visits with Clarence and his mom and got to forget about chemotherapy and all that went with it by talking about the plans for picking out and bringing home our puppy over the following 8 months. We’ve stayed in touch with Clarence and his mom over the years, and after my son began hospice care in February 2018, Clarence came to spend time with his friend in his final days. These visits were just as important to my family as they were for my son. The calming presence of Clarence brought peace and joy we had not been able to find going through those last weeks of my son’s life. The gift of being present during the hardest things in life is priceless in my eyes. What WMTD does matters, and I’m so thankful for all of it.” - Lori Jager
A Member Testimonial
“When my mom came home 18 years ago after taking the WMTD Intro to Pet Therapy class with our family dog, Pierson, she was so excited that he was going to learn to go into hospitals and schools to help people. I loved hearing about all the places she visited and how many tricks Pierson did for those he met. My mom is so passionate about helping people, which made me excited to follow in her footsteps. Once I was old enough, I was able to assist at WMTD classes and testing days. I learned so much about dog behavior and how to be a good handler, all while making lifelong friendships. When our founder Jeanne's Great Dane, Tator-tot, was ready for therapy work, I took him through class so Jeanne could teach. I learned so much! After my family got a Golden Retriever, Charley, I went through classes with my mom and graduated as a junior handler. Charley and I visited Mary Free Bed, Christian Rest Home, and our Ruff Reader programs with KDL until I went off to college. As I got older (and busier), I still helped with testing and classes, but I missed doing therapy visits. Fortunately, after I moved into my own place, my German Shepherd Bear came into my life, and we graduated from class four years ago. Bear and I visit Mary Free Bed, Helen DeVos Children's Hospital, Ruff Reader programs with KDL, and many other events. I have also started teaching the Intro to Pet Therapy classes as well as performing the skills tests. Following in my mom's footsteps for the last 15 years has truly been an honor, and I am so thankful she lit a spark in me to want to be a part of something that makes a difference in so many lives.” - Katie Duthler, WMTD Member and Class Instructor
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