Rhode Island Monthly Health & Wellness 2016 : Page 12
Your Health. Your Wellness. » SERVICE DOGS | | Continued from page 8 Paul Molloy with his guide dog, Shaun, at his ofﬁ ce in Warren. Photo by Nancy Kirsch “ 10 Rhode Island Monthly | Guide to Health and Wellness 2016 “ I don’t think people realize how much stress and pressure there is. Every single day is a challenge. All my problems aren’t solved because I have a guide dog, even though he’s a tremendous help. The outgoing Molloy wishes people would ignore Shaun and him, as inter-ruptions interfere with his commands to Shaun and calculations of blocks left to walk. “We’re always talking to each other as we’re walking,” says Molloy, who regu-larly reinforces commands with his dog. Unlike service and guide dogs — raised from infancy and trained intensively for that purpose — pet-assisted therapy (PAT) animals live with their families and make visits to children on the autism spectrum, individuals getting occupational or physical therapy, and lonely, ill or elderly individu-als. Service and guide dogs generally have broad public access rights under federal and state laws — and those laws often vary — while PAT animals have varied access under Rhode Island law, depending on the role they fulﬁ ll. Be aware: PAT involves more than taking your mellow Lab to your neighborhood nursing home. A commitment of time, energy and money for training and certi-ﬁ cation is expected. DJ Professional Pet Assisted Therapy Program (DJ PPAT) believes that any good-tempered family pet that enjoys interacting and bonding with strangers can be a PAT animal, says Cynthia Vanaudenhove, the program’s co-director. In fact, Windwalker “ deafness and progressive loss of vision. Although Molloy was born profoundly deaf, he was able to drive as a young man and only later experienced vision loss. To compensate for his worsening vision, Molloy, who calls himself a “very happy deaf man,” had a cochlear implant that restored some hearing in his left ear. Nevertheless, when he could neither see nor hear trafﬁ c coming from the right, Molloy realized that a guide dog could do for him what his cane could not. “The cane doesn’t think. Shaun thinks,” says Molloy of his guide dog. “Shaun would stop me from crashing into a wall or bump-ing into people.” He revels in his increased conﬁ dence and independence, thanks to Shaun, a golden retriever he’s had for about a year. Molloy laughs as he explains how he came to trust Shaun at busy intersections: “My trainer always said, ‘Paul, Shaun doesn’t want to get hit by a car either. Trust me on this. He likes life.’ ” With a master’s degree from Colum-bia University, Molloy moved to Rhode Island to work for the Corliss Institute in Warren, where he is now its director of programs. Getting a service or guide dog is “the freakiest thing a human can do,” he says. “You’re taking your independence and putting it into an animal that has the maturity of a young child.” Like childrearing, raising these dogs is an expensive undertaking, but only for the organization. “The whole process, from birth to training to placement, costs [more than] $50,000 [for a single dog],” says William Krol, the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind’s communications manager. “Individuals receive their guide dogs and training and a lifetime of care, at no cost to them.” Their puppies spend about a year with volunteer puppy raisers to learn basic obedience skills. Later, they receive three to four months of formal guide dog training. Eventually, each dog and client train as a team for two weeks. Matching a dog with a client is a bit of art and a bit of science, says Krol. “ You’re taking your independence and putting it into an animal that has the maturity of a young child.