Eleven dogs graduated today from the Delta Society Pet Partners Training Program. There was no pomp and circumstance, but there were some proud dog owners on hand at the graduation ceremony today.
"We have ten dogs that are graduating, plus we have one honorary member, so that means eleven registered therapy dogs today," said Patsy Thomas, a volunteer for the Humane Society of South Mississippi.
All of the dogs underwent weeks of skills training and aptitude testing for visiting local nursing homes.
"They have to know how to sit, stay, which is very important, come. They also have a certain temperment, too. They have to not be too jumpy, but they have to be friendly at the same time. And not only, the handler has to have skills too, like as far as how they're going to be with their animal and the person, so it's really at both ends of the leash," said Patsy Thomas.
The dogs have already spent more than 50 hours of quality time with their newfound human friends.
"Our group, we go and we visit four nursing homes. We are going to start visiting the VA Medical Center in Biloxi. We go to a personal care home," Thomas said.
While some of the dogs were reluctant to wear their graduation caps and just downright dog tired, their owners and the dogs themselves can't wait to hit up the nursing homes again.
Just ask Charley's owner, Cindy Rogers.
"After having gone several times now. It's oh, it's Charley. All of the nurses love him. All the clients at the nursing home love him, and we've actually gotten to work with some patients and the therapists. We handle the dogs, and the therapists have used our dogs to help their patients. It's very rewarding," Rogers said.
The Humane Society will soon be holding training sessions for cats, too.