Wheaten Terrier Kibo makes the Kent’s front door shudder as he rushes with a bark to greet anyone who rings the doorbell.
With exuberance like that it can be hard to believe upon first meeting the eight-year-old terrier in his Chestermere home that he’s a therapy dog with the Chestermere Therapy Dogs Society.
“It’s just in the house that he’s like that,” said his owner and handler Lori Kent.
But put on his Therapy Dogs Society bandana and Kibo starts to settle down, ready to work.
“He does sort of get into this mode of his job,” she said.
Even as he settles down to work, Kibo is excited to meet people.
“He loves people,” said Kent, “he absolutely love everybody, he can’t wait to meet people.”
She said that Kibo has the amazing ability to mirror the energy of the people he his meeting and working with.
“If a teenager or an adult comes up and they’re excited, he’s excited,” said Kent.
She’s also watched him with small children who are unsure about dogs.
“He’s completely different, he’s very still he doesn’t lick them,” she said.
Kibo’s unique personality, love of people and ability to mirror a person’s energy level is what led Kent to believe he would make a great therapy dog.
“I always thought that he would be a good therapy dog or something like that,” she said.
Kent learned of the therapy dogs when the Kent family moved to Chestermere just over two years ago.
The society first opened its doors at about that same time in 2014.
“The society began…with the intention of helping in the community wherever we can by using therapy dogs,” said Chestermere Therapy Dogs Society President Steve King.
Initially the society was only running two programs but as of 2015 they added a third.
The first is Listening Tails where the dogs and their handlers go to the Chestermere Public Library and 10 area schools so that young children can boost their confidence in reading out loud by reading to the dogs.
The second program, Visiting Tails, sees the dogs go to senior’s facilities and spend time with the residents there. This program has expanded to a total of seven senior’s facilities.
The newest program, Caring Tails, has the dogs helping people undergoing a stressful event in their lives.
“For example we take the dogs into Chestermere High School over exam time,” said King.
The program is open to anyone and can be booked by contacting the society for a consultation.
“We’ve helped people with young children or the adults themselves that just need some time with a dog,” he said.
Kibo and Kent participate in all the programs. However, Kibo is particularly good at reducing stress.
One time at the high school during exam time the pair was in the main program room when Kibo heard someone crying in the hall.
“He was straining at his leash pointing himself out to the door,” said Kent.
After checking with a teacher, the pair went out into the hall.
“There was a group of people, [Kibo] went immediately to the girl that was crying,” said Kent, “and she bends down and starts petting him and stops crying.”
Kent said that having the opportunity to watch these interactions between Kibo and their clients can be incredibly rewarding.
“To me that’s a huge reward,” she said, “I like it and I like seeing the effect it has on people.”
She also likes that volunteering with the therapy dogs lets her spend time with Kibo. She has also started bringing her eight-year-old son, Cameron along too.
The society has 43 dog and handler teams like Kent and Kibo.
They are looking for more volunteers, especially those with availability on weekdays during the day.
“We are looking for more handlers particularly in the Langdon area,” said King.
Any dog can be trained as a therapy dog.
Potential therapy dogs are assessed by King who looks for dogs with good temperaments and great obedience as well as general health of the dog.
The dogs are also checked for free at Chestermere Veterinary Clinic and the handler have to get a police check completed.
King would like to add up to four more handlers for the Langdon and Strathmore areas.
The growth of the society has exceeded King’s expectations when he started the society in 2014.
“When you start a brand-new charity you never quite know where this thing’s going to go,” he said.
“I’ve been blown away by…both the interest and the demand for our services,” said King.
He credits the success of the society to the dogs.
“Dogs have this amazing ability to allow us to relax,” said King, “and of course they’re non-judgmental.”
People wanting to volunteer with the society or wishing to book time with the Caring Tails program can contact the Society by phone at (587) 581-5571 or e-mail at email@example.com.