By Jaime Thomas
A new furry face has been making the rounds at both the Pember Library and Museum and Indian River Nursing and Rehabilitation Center lately.
Lilly, a 4-year-old golden retriever, has been working as a therapy dog on the weekends along with her handler, Michelle Parbus. The two went for training with Therapy Dogs International(TDI) in Glens Falls and after passing a test about a year and a half ago, they’ve been working in Granville.
“This is just something I do for fun. Fun for me, fun for her,” Parbus said of her volunteering. Saturday was her second time with Lilly at the library, where they offered services for the Tail Waggin’ Tutors program.
This program offers children, often those with disabilities or shyness, a relaxed way to practice their reading.
“The idea of kids reading to the dogs is dogs are a non-judgmental listener,” Parbus said. “The idea is to get the kids reading that might otherwise not be reading.”
In order to pass the test to be a therapy dog, Lilly had to show she could ignore food, be comfortable around medical equipment, not be skittish and be able to work with any age group. She’s fully proved the last qualification, spending time with both the very young and very old.
At the nursing home, Parbus said her dog is a companion and good company for residents who no longer have their own pets.
“When I first started I was shocked at how they miss their dogs,” she said. Though she got Lilly simply because the dog needed a home, she said her demeanor is perfect for volunteering.
“She has one of those eager to please personalities; she loves people and loves attention,” Parbus said. The idea to test with Lilly for TDI came from watching her grandmother, who had show dogs, do therapy with them.
“After seeing her doing it with her dog, it seemed like a good fit if I got a dog,” she said. The two have only been to the Pember on two Saturdays so far. In order to provide an unbiased “listener,” Lilly sits or lays next to children as they read to her.
“She’ll just listen,” Parbus said. “I love it; I love to see the reaction.” So far she has seen children from pre-kindergarten age up to 8 or 9 years old. The two are currently visiting the Pember once a month, but Parbus said she might go more often in the future.
She said inevitable interaction with the Pember’s house pet, Lucy, has been OK.
“I think she likes Lucy. They weren’t afraid of each other,” Parbus said. Any children or parents who want to know more about Lilly’s next visit to the library can visit Pember.sals.edu or call the library at 642-2525.
Those interested in learning more about TDI can call 973-252-9900 or visit tdi-dog.org.