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Class of 2021 therapy dogs celebrate graduation in Gulfport

Published: Jul. 10, 2021 at 8:45 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 10, 2021 at 8:46 PM CDT
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GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - Tails were wagging non-stop for the Visiting Pet Teams of South Mississippi’s graduating ceremony in Gulfport.

Workers said the ceremony celebrated five therapy dogs being added to the team and three dogs have been recertified after the required two years. Officials explained that therapy dogs must get recertified every two years in case the nature of the dog changes.

The program’s coordinator Michael Bowin said that he’s happy to host the ceremony since it was canceled last year due to COVID-19.

“We wanted to recognize the newly registered teams,” said Bowin. “They have gone through their training and evaluation process to become a registered team. They worked hard and we’re really proud of them.”

Bowin said that the registration process can take up to six months to a year.

Visiting Pet Teams of South Mississippi visits places like hospitals, living facilities, and senior centers to bring light to someone’s day.

“You can talk to anyone normally and that’s fine,” said Bowin. “However, a dog gives them a special comfort. It brings them enjoyment and sparks old, pleasant memories.”

Bowin said the community needs service dogs more than ever because some people have been isolated due to COVID-19.

He said that the team is ready to serve the community.

“A lot of them are happy to see the animals again. A lot of them still remember the dogs’ name. But as far as the handler’s name, people do not have a clue. But, they’ll remember that dog, it’s kind of funny,” said Bowin.

Bowin said that if you want an establishment to become an approved facility you must establish a pet policy and provide floor plans so teams know what to expect

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