A brand new therapy dog organization is focusing on helping Wasatch County residents… one paw at a time.
It should come as no surprise that your dog provides incredible benefits to your emotional and physical well-being. Did you know that dogs could impact your community in the exact same way?
Rocky Mountain Therapy Dogs (RMTD) is embarking on its first year with certified teams volunteering their time to provide therapeutic and educational services to the Heber Valley. Through the power of tail wags and wet kisses, these four-legged public servants are working hard to support our community’s emotional, intellectual and physical growth in the most adorable way!
Serving The Valley With A Smile And A Wag
RMTD officially launched in May 2019 with a clear mission to provide help, hope and healing to anyone in need of its services. As the first therapy dog organization to dedicate itself solely to Wasatch and Summit counties, these dog-and-human teams are excited for the opportunity to work in their very own communities.
Soldier Hollow Charter School in Midway and Bee Hive Home of Park City were the first to open their doors, allowing the dogs and handlers to be a part of their communities. After an outpouring of positive feedback, RMTD is looking forward to expanding its outreach in the Heber Valley.
When creating therapy dog programs, RMTD takes a whole host of factors into account. Based on each facility’s goals and desires, RMTD builds a customized program plan and assigns specific therapy dog teams that best fit those needs.
RMTD Teams In Action
After a therapy dog team becomes RMTD-certified, the team is designated as one of two types of therapy teams based on what line of work the team would be most comfortable and successful in.
Dog Assisted Therapy (DAT) teams are involved in goal-directed treatment plans designed by a health professional, such as a physical therapist or psychologist. These teams’ interactions support emotional, social, intellectual and physical growth.
Dog Assisted Activity (DAA) teams offer encouragement through recreational activities. Their interactions are designed to bring joy by channeling the individual’s focus onto something healthy and positive.
While the styles of therapy are different, both types of therapy dog teams share the same goal of making people happy and healthy with the support of furry friends!
Though RMTD dogs are clearly marked with teal “Therapy Dog” vests whenever they work out in the field, it is common for these dogs to be mistaken for service dogs. Since education is a core part of RMTD’s mission, the organization works to help educate the public on the differences between the three types of working dogs.
A service dog is trained to perform specific tasks for his or her owner in order to ease the challenges of a disability. The trust in this relationship is incredibly strong and allows the handler to navigate everyday life with constant physical or psychological support. In order to qualify for a service dog, individuals must have a condition that significantly limits or does not allow for them to engage in daily life activities.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects individuals with service dogs and grants them access to almost all public facilities and events without special permission. The only two questions the public may ask are: (1) Is that a service dog? and (2) What task do they perform for you? No documentation or demonstrations are required, however, the dog may not be a nuisance or a threat to the public.
A therapy dog is a public servant who offers psychological and physiological support to individuals other than his or her owner. Entering public facilities is acceptable on a case-by-case basis and the dog needs to be given permission before volunteering at the premises. These dogs have very easy-going and playful personalities and are trained to be well-mannered around new people and environments.
ESAS (Emotional Support Animals)
ESAs offer comfort to their owners who struggle with stress, anxiety or depression. They have not been trained to perform a specific task, and therefore are not granted the same rights as service dogs. ESAs’ access is significantly limited, however — according to the Fair Housing Act and Air Carrier Access Act — they may live in housing that does not allow animals and may fly on commercial airlines with permission.
To be a part of the Heber Valley community is a privilege, but to give back is truly a gift. RMTD has so many exciting plans for its future and wants to open up volunteer opportunities for residents with or without dogs! For more information on Rocky Mountain Therapy Dogs or to volunteer, visit rmtdogs.org or @rmtdogs on Facebook and Instagram.