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Szizlin MTM Marillion


Owner: Sandy & Paul Tagatac

Certifed Delta Therapy Dog - AKC Pet Partner

Kayleigh turns 11 Years Old




  While some of us may be sleeping-in, having a leisurely breakfast or catching up on the Sunday morning news, Petra administrative assistant Sandy Tagatac is walking the halls at Midstate Medical Center with her dog, Kayleigh, hoping to provide some comfort to patients and their visitors. Upon acquiring a Hungarian hunting dog puppy (a Vizsla) five years ago, Sandy was determined that her dog would be well trained. Kayleigh was brought to puppy classes, classes for obedience and agility, and for good measure, a Canine Good Citizen class. Kayleigh also went to doggie daycare and was brought to Lyman Orchards to strengthen her “people” skills. She even joined the Petra team for our MS Walk in the Spring of 2011. Our group consensus then was that she was a remarkably well behaved dog and had a wonderful temperament.  Given the training and her dog’s positive response to that training, Sandy decided to explore the possibility of having Kayleigh become a pet therapy dog. Starting late last summer and for a period of approximately four months, Sandy and Kayleigh worked diligently through the process to become a registered  owner of a pet therapy dog. Earlier this year, Sandy’s efforts were rewarded when she was certified through PetPartners©.

 The PetPartners© Therapy Animal Program, which  was established in 1990,  trains and screens volunteers and their pets for visiting animal programs in hospitals, nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, schools and other facilities. Most healthcare facilities require pet therapy dog owners to be registered with one of the national pet therapy organization and evaluated by one of their certified instructors. The evaluation is only good for two years and then you have to re-apply. The process is fairly involved but the first requirement is to have an animal with the right temperament that is capable of being trained. While specific classes are not required prior to submitting to the evaluation process, Sandy and Kayleigh spent sixteen Saturdays in  Manchester taking beginners and intermediate level pet therapy classes. The classes included field trips to Evergreen Walk in South Windsor for human interaction. The classes prepared the Tagatac team for the certification evaluation. As part of that process, the pet owner and pet are evaluated as to how they handle a variety of situations including basic obedience, being handled by  =strangers, walking by other dogs and approaching wheelchairs and walkers.

 One of Sandy’s favorite parts of the evaluation was the "leave it" command. In Sandy’s case, “a nice, fluffy stuffed squirrel was used to entice the dogs”. So let your imagination run with Sandy’s comment regarding the challenge of that test: “Hello, can you say hunting dog!” After taking part in the evaluation and passing, Sandy was required to submit a registration packet along with a completed questionnaire, photo for an I.D. badge, animal health  screen form signed by her vet, and the test score from the evaluation. All went well, and Sandy received her acceptance letter and I.D. badge to be used when she applied to a healthcare facility. Not long thereafter, Sandy noticed an ad in her local newspaper looking for volunteers in the pet therapy program at MidState. After an interview at Midstate  which she and Kayleigh passed with “flying colors”, Sandy was required to provide references, obtain a hospital badge, attend a three hour safety orientation and have a two part TB test. She was also required to provide a health care form signed by her physician.

 After all that, she and Kayleigh were ready to go. Initially they were paired with another Pet-Partners© team but since this past June, they have been working independently. Sandy has met a wide variety of people who love to share their stories. Per Sandy, “It's wonderful to see someone's face light up when I ask if we can come in for a visit. Being a volunteer in any   setting is truly rewarding. It's even better when you can volunteer with your canine companion.”

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