“Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.” — Words any dog lover can understand. These words take on an entirely new dimension when the dog is a service or therapy companion. These wonderful canines calm children with disabilities such as autism; help stroke patients with tasks like retrieving dropped items, opening doors and removing a jacket or pair of socks and shoes; and safely guide people with physical disabilities.
This winter, Bowling Green State University senior Maranda Hafner had the privilege of working to match dogs from Assistance Dogs of America, Inc. with families from Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan. A major in the Human Development and Family Studies (HDFS) program, Hafner says, “It is very rewarding to take all my classroom lessons and adapt that knowledge to provide real assistance. Plus, I get to spend time with some of the greatest dogs in the world!”
While Hafner is happy to be making a difference for families, she is grateful that she is able to provide assistance under the organized structure of a BGSU internship. “I want to do the best for the families I work with and was very nervous at first about making the right choices and recommendations. However, as an intern, no one expects me to have all the answers right away. I have been given so much positive feedback and guidance from both my faculty advisor and the staff at Assistance Dogs of America. With this experience, I am confident I will be able to make a difference in a community agency when I graduate.”
During a typical day, Hafner works with Assistance Dogs of America Client Services Director Jenny Barlos, a 1983 BGSU graduate. They travel to families and organizations requesting assistance to determine if a service or therapy dog is an appropriate choice. Applicants who are approved for a placement are placed on a waiting list until a dog is available. They must then successfully complete an intensive training and certification program.
Helping students connect with the community is an essential component of the HDFS program. Between spring 2009 and spring 2010, program interns completed more than 33,800 service hours to child and family agencies in northwest Ohio and beyond. The estimated economic impact of these services is approximately $608,000.
“Beyond these figures, the impact of our student's internships is immeasurable. Whether it is finding just the right therapy dog for a stroke patient, strengthening a family whose child has a chronic illness, or locating support services for a family experiencing domestic violence, our students change lives,” says Dr. Laura Landry-Meyer, an associate professor of HDFS. “As a professor, it is especially rewarding to see students move into internships and gain a level of confidence and competence that will serve the community for years to come.”
Students from BGSU's Human Development and Family Studies complete internships that serve children and families throughout northwest Ohio in agencies such as:
* The Ability Center of Greater Toledo
* Adopt America Network
* American Cancer Society
* Assistance Dogs of America, Inc.
* Behavioral Connections of Wood County
* Big Brothers & Big Sisters of Northwest Ohio
* Bowling Green Teen Central
* Children's Resource Center
* Help Me Grow, Early Intervention
* Ohio Theatre
* Prescribed Pediatrics
* Sandusky County Health Department
* Sterling House of Bowling Green – Brookdale Senior Living
* Toledo Children's Hospital
* Toledo Community Foundation
* Wellness Connection BGSU
* Wood County Committee on Aging
* Wood County District Public Library
* Wood County Educational Service Center
* Wood County Juvenile and Municipal Court
* Wood County Prosecutor's Youth Services & Programs
* Wood Lane Residential and Industries
* YMCA of Greater Toledo